Category Archives: judging

Royal Bath & West Show 2013 Cider Results

The Royal Bath & West Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England, plays host to the world’s largest cider judging competition each spring. Somerset is perhaps England’s best known cider making county and its cidermakers typically take home a healthy share of awards, but entries come from all parts of the West Country and beyond. There were 16 different classes (categories) in the judging this year, with two of those dedicated solely to entries from outside the United Kingdom.

According to Alan Stone’s book Cider at the Bath & West Show, cider judging classes were first introduced at the 1895 show in Taunton. Even then the competition was what North Americans would call a pro-am; professionals and amateurs competed side by side. There were 14 entrants in four classes—two for cask ciders and two for bottled ciders—and the entrants hailed from all the main cidermaking regions of England. Interest in the cider classes has ebbed and flowed ever since; the cider classes disappeared from the program entirely in the ’60s and ’70s, but a revival of interest in cider that began in the early ’80s shows no signs of stopping. According to this post from the Royal Bath & West Society, this year’s judging received 518 entries, an all-time record. Last year’s competition received 498 entries; see my post on the 2012 competition for details.

The most sought after awards in the competition are from the Farmhouse classes, where the cider is made entirely from the previous year’s apple crop and presented to the judges in a one-gallon glass demijohn. This year there were 154 entries across the Dry, Medium, and Sweet classes. The three Bottled classes were also quite popular, with 142 entries across Dry, Medium, and Sweet. The other eight classes open to entries from within the UK accounted for 178 entries. These classes include entries for apple juice, sparkling cider, organic cider, single-variety cider, perry, and a class for overall impression of a bottled cider’s taste and presentation. For more specifics on these classes—including who the esteemed judges were for each class—read the Orchards & Cider Schedule from the Royal Bath & West Society site.

As might be expected, Somerset received the most awards of any county (16). Devon (11) and Gloucestershire (8) were close behind, with Hampshire (4) and Gloucestershire (4) farther down the list. As for individual cidermakers, Berry Farm of Devon picked up five awards, including a 2nd in the hotly contested Farmhouse Dry class. Nigel Cuff (Wessex Cider) of Hampshire picked up three awards, including a 1st in Farmhouse Sweet. Martin Soble (Carey Organic / Whitethorn Farm) of Herefordshire also picked up three awards, including a 1st in Organic Cider. Barnes and Adams of Gloucestershire picked up three awards as well, with 2nd place in both Perry and Farmhouse Medium. Larger producers Perry’s and Sheppy’s, both of Somerset, also won three awards each.

The most popular class aside from the Farmhouse and Bottled classes was International Cider, which had 52 entries this year. Uncle John’s from Michigan was awarded for a second straight year, this time picking up a 3rd place in International Cider. And Snowdrift from Washington added to its awards from last year’s Three Counties Show by picking up a Highly Commended in International Perry. (Bill Bradshaw’s photographic evidence of a Snowdrift bottle with a First Place tag conflicts with the results I’ve seen; I do not believe that the Royal Bath & West Society has publicly posted the official awards as of this writing.)

The results that follow are based on information I gathered from Michael Cobb’s and Andrew Lea’s posts on the Cider Workshop. These results may not be 100% correct, so I apologize if I am rebroadcasting incorrect information. For example, if Andrew’s numbers are right, there were 530 total entries rather than the 518 entries claimed earlier by the Society. I’d also welcome any details on Landshire Ciders, whose cider won 1st place in Farmhouse Medium and was also crowned as Champion Farmhouse Cider. The identity of the cidermaker from Asturias is also a mystery to me, though it appears to be same producer who was awarded in 2012.

The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers’ Perpetual Cup
Supreme Champion Cider (Classes 1-8, 12-14)
Champion: Woodredding Farm [Class 8]
Reserve: Hogan’s [Class 2]

Arthur Davies Cider Cup
Best Cider Adjudged (Classes 5 and 8)

Champion: Perry’s [Class 5]
Reserve: Woodredding Farm [Class 8]

The Worshipful Company of Pewterers’ Perpetual Cup
Best Farmhouse Cider (Classes 12-14)
Winner: Landshire Ciders [Class 13]
Reserve: Barnes and Adams [Class 13]

Vigo Apple Juice Trophy
Best Apple Juice (Classes 9-10)

Winner: Rich’s [Class 10]
Reserve: Armagh Cider Co. [Class 10]

Lawrence Reilly Perry Cup
Best Perry (Class 11)
Winner: Andrew Hecks
Reserve: Barnes and Adams

Weston’s Organic CIder Cup
Best Organic Cider (Class 4)

Winner: Martin Soble
Reserve: Berry Farm

SFM Technology Trophy
Best International Cider (Class 15)

Winner: Val de Rance

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Dry Cider, Bottled (SG 1.008 or below)
Class 1 — 47 Entries
1st: Sheppy’s – Somerset
2nd: Nigel Cuff – Hampshire
3rd: Orchard Pig – Somerset

Medium Cider, Bottled (SG 1.008 to 1.015)
Class 2 – 59 Entries
1st: Hogan’s – Warwickshire
2nd: Rosie’s Triple D – Denbighshire, Wales
3rd: Thatchers – Somerset
Highly Commended: Armagh Cider Co. – County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Sweet Cider, Bottled (SG 1.015 and above)
Class 3 – 36 Entries

1st: Perry’s – Somerset
2nd: Old Grove – Herefordshire
3rd: West Milton – Dorset
Highly Commended: Berry Farm – Devon

Organic Cider, Bottled
Class 4 – 8 Entries

1st: Martin Soble – Herefordshire
2nd: Berry Farm – Devon
3rd: Martin Soble – Herefordshire

Bottled Cider, Taste and Presentation
Class 5 – 46 Entries

1st: Perry’s – Somerset
2nd: Orchard Pig – Somerset
3rd: Sheppy’s – Somerset
Very Highly Commended: Shepton Mallet Cider Mill – Somerset
Highly Commended: Oliver’s – Herefordshire
Highly Commended: Honey and Daughter – Somerset

Bottle Fermented Cider
Class 6 –  12 Entries

1st: Ashridge – Devon
2nd: Bollhayes – Devon
3rd: West Lake Orchards – Devon

Naturally Sweet, Bottle Conditioned Cider (keeved / arrested fermentation)
Class 7 – 9 Entries

1st: Barry Topp – Hampshire
2nd: West Milton – Dorset
3rd: Berry Farm – Devon

Single Variety Cider
Class 8 – 28 Entries
1st: Woodredding Farm – Herefordshire
2nd: Old Grove – Herefordshire
3rd: Perry’s – Somerset

Single Variety Apple Juice
Class 9 – 26 Entries
1st: Once Upon A Tree – Herefordshire
2nd: Glastonbury Abbey – Somerset
3rd: Ringi AS – Akershus, Norway
Highly Commended: Martin Soble – Herefordshire

Blended Apple Juice
Class 10 – 26 Entries

1st: Rich’s – Somerset
2nd: Armagh Cider Co. – County Armagh, Northern Ireland
3rd: Quiet Corner Farm – Somerset
Very Highly Commended: Ringi AS – Akershus, Norway
Highly Commended: Ashridge – Devon
Highly Commended: Lizzie Hecks – Somerset

Perry, Bottled
Class 11 – 23 Entries

1st: Andrew Hecks – Somerset
2nd: Barnes and Adams – Gloucestershire
3rd: Hogan’s – Warwickshire

Farmhouse Dry Cider (SG 1.008 or below)
Class 12 – 63 Entries

1st: Orchard’s – Gloucestershire
2nd: Berry Farm – Devon
3rd: Barnes and Adams – Gloucestershire

Farmhouse Medium Cider (SG 1.008 to 1.015)
Class 13 – 55 Entries
1st: Landshire Ciders – ?
2nd: Barnes and Adams – Gloucestershire
3rd: Bollhayes – Devon
Very Highly Commended: Nigel Cuff – Hampshire

Farmhouse Sweet Cider (SG 1.015 and above)
Class 14 – 36 Entries
1st: Nigel Cuff – Hampshire
2nd: Sheppy’s – Somerset
3rd: Green Valley – Devon
Very Highly Commended: Berry Farm – Devon

Cider, Bottled, Outside UK
Class 15 – 52 Entries
1st: Val de Rance – Brittany, France
2nd: Loic Raison – Brittany, France
3rd: Uncle John’s – Michigan, United States
Very Highly Commended: Sidra de Asturias [?] – Asturias, Spain
Highly Commended: Stonewell Cider – County Cork, Ireland

Perry, Bottled, Outside UK
Class 16 – 4 Entries
Very Highly Commended: Adam Bland – Lower Normandy, France
Highly Commended: Snowdrift – Washington, United States

National Homebrew Competition – Cider Awards

The American Homebrewers Association recently posted the First Round winners from this year’s National Homebrew Competition. The NHC began in 1979 with a mere 34 entries and has grown steadily since then, with an unofficial count of 7,775 entries in 2013. Although the competition is geared toward grain-based beverages, the NHC has awarded a Meadmaker of the Year since 1981 and a Cidermaker of the Year since 1992. These awards are presented to the creators of the best-of-show mead and the best-of-show cider during the National Homebrewers Conference, held this year in Philadelphia from June 27-29.

The reigning Cidermaker of the Year, Roger Kee, has two entries that have advanced to the Final Round this year. and four-time Cidermaker of the Year winner Jeff Carlson (’00, ’01, ’08, ’09) also has two entries advancing. Other former Cidermaker of the Year winners with entries advancing include Byron Burrier (’03), John Jurgensen (’06), Edward Walkowski (’11), and Anjie Watts (’10) as a collaborator. Curiously, a number of former Meadmaker of the Year winners have entries advancing in cider categories as well, including Curt & Kathy Stock (’05), Steve Fletty (’07), and Rodney Kibzey (’10).

Of the 199 cider entries this year, 66 have advanced to the Final Round. Here’s a breakdown of the advancing entries by BJCP style:

27A Common Cider – 24
27B English Cider – 5
27C French Cider – 1
27D Common Perry – 3
27E Traditional Perry – 0
28A New England Cider – 5
28B Fruit Cider – 11
28C Applewine – 4
28D Specialty Cider or Perry – 13

And here’s a full list of cider results broken down by judging center:

Seattle – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Tavish Sullivan of Bothell, WA with Laura Sullivan – 27A
2nd – Roger Kee of Everett, WA – 27A
3rd – Melissa Allison of Oak Harbor, WA with Jeremy Allison – 27A

Seattle – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – David Pucci of Oak Harbor, WA – 28A
2nd – Roger Kee of Everett, WA – 28D
3rd – Marc Hayden of Sherwood, OR – 28A

Pleasanton – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Joshua Mann of Nipomo, CA – 27B
2nd – Joshua Mann of Nipomo, CA – 27A
3rd – David Louw of San Luis Obispo, CA – 27A

Pleasanton – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – John Boro of Encinitas, CA with Dave Fox – 28B
2nd – Larry Stein of San Diego, CA – 28C
3rd – Larry Stein of San Diego, CA – 28D

San Diego – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Brian Trout of San Diego, CA – 27A
2nd – Jason Conrado of San Diego, CA – 27A
3rd – Jenny DuRose of San Diego, CA with Eric DuRose – 27A

San Diego – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Christian Banker of Encinitas, CA – 28D
2nd – Brian Trout of San Diego, CA – 28D
3rd – Jess Sullivan of Descanso, CA – 28C

Denver – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Mark Tanner of Oak Harbor, WA – 27D
2nd – Dennis Talley of Las Cruces, NM with Misha Hasan – 27A
3rd – Don Blake of Erie, CO – 27A

Denver – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – David Allan of Las Cruces, NM – 28D
2nd – Andrew Mitchell of Fort Collins, CO – 28D
3rd – Mark Tanner of Oak Harbor, WA – 28B

Tulsa – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Fred Mason of Pittsburgh, PA – 27B
2nd – Michael Wilcox of Wichita, KS - 27A
3rd – Jay McEvers of Round Rock, TX – 27A

Tulsa – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Michael Wilcox of Wichita, KS – 28D
2nd – John Jurgensen of Alvin, TX – 27A
3rd – Chuck Lutz of Walden, NY – 28A

Kansas City – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Jovilin Grunewald of Oak Harbor, WA with Mark Tanner – 27A
2nd – Mark Schoppe of Austin, TX – 27D
3rd – Doug Reed of Highlands Ranch, CO – 27B

Kansas City – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Michael Hill of Lenexa, KS – 28B
2nd – Edward Walkowski of North Abington Twp., PA – 28B
3rd – Bob Mac Kay of Carlsbad, CA – 28D

Saint Paul – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Curt Stock of Saint Paul, MN with Kathy Stock – 27A
2nd – Will Bond of Saint Paul, MN with Bill Bond – 27A
3rd – Steve Fletty of Falcon Heights, MN – 27A

Saint Paul – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Steve Fletty of Falcon Heights, MN – 28B
2nd – Curt Stock of Saint Paul, MN with Kathy Stock – 28B
3rd – Brett Glenna of Lakeville, MN – 28B

Milwaukee – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Byron Burrier of Neenah, WI with Steve Olson, & Steve Mattheeussen – 27A
2nd – Rodney Kibzey of Lombard, IL – 27A
3rd – Rodney Kibzey of Lombard, IL – 27D

Milwaukee – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Rodney Kibzey of Lombard, IL – 28B
2nd – Roberto Bob Rodriguez of Lake Ronkonkoma, NY – 28D
3rd – Byron Burrier of Neenah, WI with Keith Akstulewicz, Steve Olson, & Steve Mattheeussen – 28D

Atlanta – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Josanna Dixon of Burlington, KY – 27B
2nd – Les Wright of Cumming, GA with Anjie Watts – 27C
3rd – Josanna Dixon of Burlington, KY – 27A

Atlanta – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Dan Schreffler of Dunmore, PA – 28D
2nd – Josanna Dixon of Burlington, KY – 28B
3rd – Jason Trafton of Strafford, NH with Jennifer Trafton – 28A

Zanesville – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Bob Barrett of Ann Arbor, MI – 27A
2nd – Weston Sampson of Lexington, KY – 27A
3rd – Jeff Carlson of Grand Rapids, MI – 27A

Zanesville – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Jason Bryant of Reston, VA – 28C
2nd – Travis Hammond of Poway, CA – 28D
3rd – Jeff Carlson of Grand Rapids, MI – 28A

New York City – Standard Cider and Perry
1st – Hayley Jensen of New York, NY with Stephen Durley – 27B
2nd – Stephen Mayo of Derry, NH – 27A
3rd – David Barone of Sewell, NJ – 27A

New York City – Specialty Cider and Perry
1st – Peter Cowles of Fairfield, CT – 28B
2nd – Donald Boyle of Colonia, NJ with Stephen Boyle – 28D
3rd – Ed Ramshaw of Concord, NH – 28B

GLINTCAP 2013 Unofficial Results

I was privileged to be chosen as the registrar for this year’s Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) and am pleased to share this year’s unofficial results with the cider community. The event continues to grow by leaps and bounds, with 441 total entries in 2013, a 47% increase over 2012. GLINTCAP is truly becoming an international competition with more entries, judges, and stewards hailing from outside the United States each year.

Many thanks to all who participated and hearty congratulations to all medalists! This PDF slideshow is the same that was shown at Sunday night’s awards presentation with a few minor formatting changes.

GLINTCAP 2013 Slideshow

And here’s a brief summary of the results.

Noncommercial Division
141 Entries, 93 Medals Awarded
Best of Show:
Andrew Laidlaw of Illinois for Batch M14 – ST
Honorable Mention:
Jay Bradish of North Carolina for Lucky Creek Bourbon Barrel Apple

Commercial Division
300 Entries, 240 Medals Awarded
Best of Show (Cider & Perry): Wandering Aengus of Oregon for Bloom Cider
Honorable Mention (Cider & Perry): Finnriver Farm & Cidery of Washington for Fire Barrel
Best of Show (Intensified & Spirits):
Eden Ice Cider of Vermont for Windfall Orchard 2011

Please leave a comment below or send an email to eric {AT} ciderguide {DOT} com with your feedback!

Royal Bath & West Show 2012 Cider Results

The Orchards & Cider Competition at the Royal Bath & West Show is generally regarded as the world’s largest cider judging. Cider is such an important part of the show that historian Alan Stone has even written a booklet on the topic: Cider at the Bath & West Show. The judges for this year’s competition include cider legends Julian Temperley (Burrow Hill), David Sheppy (Sheppy’s), Rose Grant (Cider by Rosie), Helen Thomas (Westons), Martin Thatcher (Thatchers), Andrew Lea (Craft Cider Making), and James Russell (Naked Guide to Cider).

The results have been posted in a database on the Bath & West site, but they may not be complete or official just yet. Michael Cobb obtained a photocopied list and has posted results to the Cider Workshop mailing list; these conflict somewhat with the Bath & West site, so I have merged the two results listings together for now until the dust clears. [I've since edited the post to include the number of entries in each class based on this message from Andrew Lea.]

Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come for American cider that Mike Beck (of Uncle John’s) earned an award in the International Cider class?

Supreme Champion Cider (Classes 1-8, 13-15)
Champion: Ashridge [Class 6]
Reserve Champion: Burrow Hill [Class 3]

Best Cider Adjudged (Classes 5, 8)
Winner: Cotswold [Class 5]
Reserve Special: Thatchers [Class 8]

Best Farmhouse Cider (Classes 13-15)
Winner: Burrow Hill [Class 14]
Reserve Special: Palmers Upland Cyder [Class 13]

Best Apple Juice (Classes 9-11)
Winner: Once Upon A Tree [Class 9]
Reserve:  North Perrott Fruit Farm [Class 11]

Best Perry (Class 12)
Winner: Troggi

Best Organic Cider (Class 4)
Winner: Mr. Dave Rowe

Best International Cider (Class 16)
Winner: Val de Rance

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Class 1 – 47 Entries
Dry Cider, Bottled (SG 1.008 or below)
1st: Hogan’s
2nd: Thatchers
3rd: Sheppy’s
Highly Commended: Barnes and Adams

Class 2 – 54 Entries
Medium Cider, Bottled (SG 1.008 to 1.015)
1st: Hogan’s
2nd: Sheppy’s
3rd: Healey’s
Highly Commended: Thatchers

Class 3 – 29 Entries
Sweet Cider, Bottled (SG 1.015 and above)
1st: Burrow Hill
2nd: Burrow Hill
3rd: Old Grove

Class 4 – 5 Entries
Organic Cider, Bottled
1st: Mr. Dave Rowe
2nd: Ashridge
3rd: Westons

Class 5 – 44 Entries
Bottled Cider (taste and presentation)

1st: Cotswold
2nd: Perry’s
3rd: Pilton
Highly Commended: Blaengawney

Class 6 –  12 Entries
Bottle Fermented Cider

1st: Ashridge
2nd: Gospel Green
3rd: Bollhayes

Class 7 – 13 Entries
Naturally Sweet, Bottle Conditioned Cider (arrested fermentation)

1st: Mr. Richard Stone
2nd: Cider by Rosie
3rd: Cider by Rosie

Class 8 – 28 Entries
Single Variety Cider
1st: Thatchers
2nd: Perry’s
3rd: Wilcox
Highly Commended: National Trust Barrington Court

Class 9 – 25 Entries
Single Variety Apple Juice
1st: Once Upon A Tree
2nd: Hecks
3rd: North Perrott Fruit Farm

Class 10 – 6 Entries
Carbonated Apple Juice
1st: Orchard Pig

Class 11 – 22 Entries
Blended Apple Juice
1st:  North Perrott Fruit Farm
2nd: Mrs. A. Pearmund
3rd: Once Upon A Tree

Class 12 – 28 Entries
Perry, Bottled

1st: Troggi
2nd: Butford Organics
3rd: Old Grove
Highly Commended: McCrindle’s

Class 13 – 62 Entries
Farmhouse Dry Cider (SG 1.008 or below)

1st: Palmers Upland Cyder
2nd: Mr. Christopher Brown
3rd: Green Valley
Very Highly Commended: Broadpool

Class 14 – 50 Entries
Farmhouse Medium Cider (SG 1.008 to 1.015)
1st: Burrow Hill
2nd: Kington
3rd: Bridge Farm
Very Highly Commended: Blackmore Vale

Class 15 – 40 Entries
Sweet Cider (SG 1.015 and above)
1st: Mr. Albert Rixen
2nd: Kington
3rd: Kington

Class 16 – 29 Entries
Cider, Bottled, Outside UK
1st: Val de Rance (Brittany, France)
2nd: Cidre Ecusson (Pays de la Loire, France)
3rd: Val de Rance (Brittany, France)
Very Highly Commended: Sidra de Asturias Pomerania Sn (Asturias, Spain)
Highly Commended: Uncle John’s (Michigan, USA)

Class 17
Perry, Bottled, Outside UK
1st: Little Creatures Pipsqueak (Western Australia, Australia)

Big Apple Trials & CAMRA Championships

Two major cider and perry competitions took place over the weekend, the Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials and the CAMRA National Cider and Perry Championships. Both competitions are unusual in that many of the judges may have no prior judging experience: the entrants themselves form the judging panels at the the Big Apple trials, while ardent cider and perry enthusiasts form the judging panels at the CAMRA championships. I believe there’s an important lesson that North Americans can learn from these competitions, regardless of how the judges are chosen…keep reading to the end for my opinion.

The Big Apple Trials

The Big Apple Association is a non-profit organization that promotes interest in English apples and cider, celebrating all aspects of apples and orchards in the Marcle Ridges parishes of Herefordshire. They organize two major festivals: the Blossomtime festival typically held the first weekend in May and the Harvestime festival typically held the second weekend in October. The Harvestime festival appears to be the larger of the two, and the event schedule reminds me very much of the happenings at Franklin County CiderDays.

Herefordshire is a traditionally agrarian county and is often associated with its neighbors Gloucestershire and Worcestershire as the Three Counties. The Three Counties Cider and Perry Association and the Three Counties Perry Presidium work to promote the region’s products, and most of the world’s premier perrymakers call the Three Counties home: DunkertonsGregg’s Pit, GwatkinLyne Down, McCrindle’s, Minchew, Orchard’s, Oliver’s, Once Upon A Tree, and Ross-on-Wye are just a few. Each county has PGI protected status under EU law for its cider and perry, and a product that is in compliance with the regulations can call itself Gloucestershire Perry or Herefordshire Cider and display the PGI logo on its label.

This year’s Cider and Perry Trials took place in Putley Village Hall as part of the Blossomtime festival. There were nearly 200 entries across nine different categories. Perhaps someone with inside knowledge can correct me, but I believe that each individual judge casts a vote of approval for the top three products in his or her category and then awards a star to the best product. The winners in each category are determined by totaling the number of votes and the number of stars for each product, with the number of stars serving as a tiebreaker if necessary. Winners of multiple awards this year include John Bramley, Nook’s Yard, Barbourne, Ralph’s, James Field, and Barnes and Adams. See the link at the top of the paragraph for the full results.

CAMRA Championships

This year’s CAMRA National Cider and Perry Championships were held as part of the Reading Beer and Cider Festival, a four-day tasting festival which has perhaps the largest collection of ciders and perries to be found anywhere.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was highly influential in the 1970s and 1980s in preserving the unique British tradition of serving cask ale at cellar temperatures without additional gas pressure to dispense it. A kegged beer has finished its fermentation at the brewery and can be consumed immediately, while a cask ale continues to ferment after leaving the brewery and must be cared for by a well-trained cellar staff at the pub. Traditional cask ale is a beautiful thing and CAMRA deserves any accolades thrown its way for keeping “real ale” alive.

However, there is no such thing as a “real cider” despite what CAMRA would have you believe. All of the sugars in cider (and most of the sugars in perry) are fermentable, so the yeast will continue fermenting the cider to complete dryness rather than dying out with a good amount of residual sugars left (as in beer). Adding priming sugar to a cask ale results in natural carbonation, whereas adding priming sugar to a cask cider will likely result in an explosion!

So CAMRA made some rather arbitrary choices to define what real cider and real perry should be and then created a list of major offenders. Many of these producers are industrial in scale and their products are of no interest to those with sophisticated tastes, but most craft producers still find the definitions unhelpful and unnecessarily restrictive and few consumers pay CAMRA any mind when it comes to this.

CAMRA did publish an informative book on cider in 2009, but has not updated its Good Cider Guide directory since 2005; for comparison, CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide is published annually to much fanfare. And CAMRA has decided to support a minimum unit pricing plan on alcohol despite the fact that it will harm farmgate sales of cider. (Learn more about this issue from the Save Our Scrumpy campaign, particularly this moving video from legendary Somerset cidermakers Julian Temperley, Frank Naish, and Roger Wilkins.)

Getting back to this year’s competition, though…all six medalists are highly respected and it appears that quality ciders and perries wound up at the top of the heap:

Cider
GOLD: Cornish Orchards – Farmhouse
SILVER: Perry’s Cider – Sweet Vintage
BRONZE: Burrow Hill – Medium

Perry
GOLD: Gwatkin – Blakeney Red
SILVER: Butford Organics – Medium
BRONZE: Minchew – Stinking Bishop

Reading isn’t exactly the epicenter of English cider, but it’s nice to see that, year after year, CAMRA does a commendable job of rewarding the best cider and perry producers in the UK. (Nick from The Cider Blog tweeted his real-time tasting notes from Friday if you’d like to see what he drank!)

Conclusion

I find it interesting that there is no distinction made in English competitions between a “West Country” style product (made mostly with traditional cider apples and perry pears) and an “Eastern Counties” style product (made mostly with dessert and culinary fruit). Any distinction made is based on the residual sugar in the final product: dry ciders are judged against other dry ciders, sweet perries against other sweet perries, and so on.

The only major North American cider and perry judging, the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, sorts the entries by style rather than by residual sugar. This strikes me as unusual because traditional cider apples and perry pears are in short supply in the US and Canada. I’m sure this choice is a result of the emphasis on style that is valued in the world of craft beer; the style guidelines for cider and perry are in fact published by the Beer Judge Certification Program.

My sense is that many well-crafted ciders in the US straddle the line between “common” and “English”. These dry, tannic ciders may not fare well as a “common” because they’re competing against sweeter, less astringent ciders. They may not fare well as an “English”, either, because they’re competing against ciders that use traditional cider apples such as Kingston Black or Yarlington Mill and ciders that may have been partially or completely fermented with wild yeasts. Few perries exist in the US, yet there is a distinction in the guidelines between “common” and “traditional” perry as well.

Perhaps it’s time for North Americans to judge cider and perry based on residual sugar rather than on a stylistic framework inherited from the world of beer?