Dribble Tests and BBC Requests: The Life of a Ciderologist
Well, I’m a month in as a full time, freelance cider talking person. And I’ve still got a bit of money in the bank so I’m gurning like an idiot! I am, however, entirely aware that this is the honeymoon period and that I might well not be as spritely in 3 months’ time. But, it’s already apparent that the decision to strike out on my own is the best I have ever made. The undeniable fact is that I am busy – really busy. There is a genuine demand for The Ciderologist’s services, not just here in the UK, but further afield, too. Who’d have thought so many people would be interested in what I have to say? Or maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. This is merely a reflection of the growing, global interest in cider that I have commented on in previous articles. This next 2-3 years is truly going to see the rise of Craft Cider, mark my words. I am committed to turning The Ciderologist into a long term project – indeed, hopefully a lifetime’s work (and I do use ‘work’ in its loosest sense). This entails dedicating time and effort to developing the ‘brand’; to be visible and audible (par for the course for Gabe, I here many of you say). This mostly necessitates turning into a Yes man – when an opportunity comes along you’ve just got to say yes to it. Take Sunday Brunch for example. Despite a slightly sweaty, twitter-melting last appearance back in March, when offered the chance of another crack a couple of weeks back, I put in my favourite performance yet. Maybe it was because I was presenting on Perry – the wine of the west, and a particular passion of mine. Last minute appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live the other week (head to 46:54 for the good stuff), and BBC Radio WM’s booze slot last Friday all add to the awareness. As well as being the provider of cider knowledge, I am thoroughly enjoying spending time with new people who approach cider from completely different angles and with entirely different experiences. I recently chaired the first round of the World Cider Awards and had the pleasure of judging alongside the Drinks Maven, Jess Mason. She introduced me to a whole new cider lexicon. This included ‘the dribble test’ - assessing the level of acidity in a cider by seeing whether its saliva-inducing properties are sufficient to propagate some dribble through clenched teeth. My personal favourite was describing a cider as having ‘nice eyes’ – that is when, with cider as with people, one wishes to be softly and gently disparaging about overall qualities but wishes to pick something good out. Bloody marvellous. I’ll be using that one in future. As it happens, there were scant opportunities to describe any of the ciders and perries tasted at the World Cider Awards as having ‘nice eyes’, because the standard was pretty bloody high. And, as I have spoken about in previous articles, the ‘new world’ markets are creating products every bit as complex and high quality as UK producers. They are generating the most detailed cider research, developing high value perception markets and creating bold, innovative ciders. But the UK is starting to take note, especially when comes to ‘hybrid’ fermentations – where the worlds of beer and cider crossover. Beavertown’s Tempus Applelation is a 10% abv Bramley apple juice and wort co-ferment dosed with Saison yeast and matured in some killer brandy casks Wowzers! It works, it bloody well works. And hot on the heels of his critically acclaimed Foxbic, cider & perry wizard Tom Oliver has teamed up with Brew By Numbers to release a Pear Saison. If truth be told, I haven’t opened the bottle yet – that’s going to be for a special occasion. So, it’s all exciting times ahead – a good time to a Ciderologist, I’d say. But all this hard work necessitates a holiday, so I’m writing this from the Brittany coastline, having already toured Normandy. Yep, I’m spending 2 weeks drinking cidre and poiré, and sampling some of the finest cheese, bread and cured meats on the planet. All for professional research, you understand. Yeah, I think I’m going to be ok in the big wide world.