On Wednesday 15th September, cider expert and head of cider judging at the International Brewing and Cider Awards, Gabe Cook, joined us for a one-hour Twitter Q&A session to answer any last-minute questions people had about the awards, including its unique judging process along with his thoughts on what sets an award-winning cider apart from the rest.
If you missed out, here’s a low down of the most frequently asked questions along with Gabe’s answers –
What sets a winning cider apart from the rest?
The joyous thing about the assessment of ciders is that it can’t be done by a machine – it needs people, and everyone assesses differently. That said, judges will be looking for that magical mix of balance, flavour intensity and showcasing characters classic to the style.
All ciders are judged to a medal standard – gold, silver, bronze or no medal. Judges will be looking for technical quality, consumer appeal, and pure enjoyment!
Which categories do you expect to be the most popular?
The Tannic Style, which accounts for the majority of UK and French cider production, always is well populated. The Flavoured Cider category continues to grow in volume. I’m also excited by emerged categories – Low/No alcohol has become increasingly popular and prominent, and for 2021, I have created a separate Rosé category, reflecting the growth in this style.
As the head of cider judging, do you have the overriding decision on who wins the awards?
. I don’t actually do any of the judging. I’m merely there to ensure our fantastic judges are able to agree upon a decision as to the medal standard of each entry, and the overall winners.
How are the ciders judged at the awards?
We don’t just look for a first, second and third, we give EVERY cider entered the opportunity to be assessed to a medal standard so we, and crucially the cider maker, can understand how good the esteemed judges think the cider is.
Gold medal ciders are world class. Silver medal ciders are excellent. Bronze medal ciders are well made, if not extraordinary. The medals are not given away – they are earnt. If a cider shows pronounced faults, is so unbalanced or unapproachable that is in unappealing then it will not receive a medal.
We have some of the best cider makers in the world judging this competition. They know what constitutes a world class cider. That’s why this is the most significant global cider competition
Do the entrants get feedback from the judges’ notes?
Yes they do!! We’ll explain why each cider got the medal that they did (or didn’t!)
What do you expect to see from this year’s entrants?
I hope, and expect, to see a greater range and quality of ciders than ever been submitted into this competition before. I think this the most exciting time for cider and I can’t wait to see what ciders are presented for judging.
What do you think will be the next innovations in cider-making?
The boundaries between all drinks are being blurred. Expect to see (tax permitting!) more cider/wine and cider/beer crossovers, co-fermentations and hopped/skin contact ciders going forward.
I also think that dry ciders will come to fore as people start to consider their sugar intake. The vast majority of ciders start their life with zero sugar, with sugars added after fermentation…. I wonder whether most drinkers know that?
Are there any particular countries or regions that you expect to see in winning positions this year?
The great thing is that any cider maker, from anywhere can enter! We’ve previously had winners from Scotland, to Scandinavia and from Somerset to Sydney!
I hope to see lots of USA makers enter as this is the fastest growing market in the world, full of an incredible range and quality of producers!
Which categories do you think will be most hotly contested this year?
I think the Medium sweetness level of the Modern category will attract a lot of entries from the USA, Australia and Europe where the use of acid-driven apples is most common. That’ll be a toughie!
It’s always hard to distinguish the best of best in the Bottle Fermented category – ciders made in the same way as Champagne. The time and skill that goes into this cider making is immense!
If you could share one tip with us for presenting our cider to the judges, what would it be?
Firstly, make sure you’ve entered your cider into the right class! The full list of classifications and their descriptors can be found here: https://www.brewingawards.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ICA-Style-Guidelines.pdf
If anyone has any additional questions about the Awards, please feel free to send us a message on our social channels.