Wine, beer, spirits, cider. It will be assessed. It will be assessed in reviews, such as here at The Cider Journal. It will be assessed at peer review sites like RateBeer.com. And, it will be assessed at competitions, such as the recently completed Pacific Northwest Cider Awards.
Consumers (and members of the trade) give different value in these efforts to assess the various ciders now available. But if one thing is certain, it is that for these assessments of cider quality to be valuable to the consumer and the trade, the consumer and the trade must understand WHAT is being evaluated.
I make this point to draw attention to the categories in which cider was evaluated at the recent Pacific Northwest Cider Awards. The categories into which Ciders from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana were entered were these:
New World Dry
New World Sweet
Old WorldWild Ferment
I’m here to suggest that these categories probably confuse consumers more than they enlighten or guide them. That’s a problem for the cider world that needs to be addressed if professional assessments of Cider are to be of value.
At this point in the cider revival, the most average consumers understand about the drink is that it is made from apples, is fizzy and is sweet. And yet, not all ciders, particularly the kind of craft ciders that are likely to be assessed in competitions, are simply sweet and fizzy.
It is my contention that if cider competitions and assessments are to be of real value to those seeking guidance, a comprehensible and intuitive categorization of cider that can be easily explained and communicated must be developed.
I don’t have the answer to how this kind of new categorization ought to be devised. But I do know that it must be based on something intrinsic to today’s cider, on something that the average consumer can readily understand and has had previous experience with, and that addresses the needs and natures of the different cider producing regions around the world, and that will be embraced by the cidermaking trade.
As for the most recently completely Pacific Northwest Cider Awards, though I was not there nor a judge, they appear to have been a great success. And hats off to Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse from British Columbia and the Seattle Cider Company, who scored 3 and 4 awards respectively at the recent competition.