The 13th annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP), held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has once again set a record as the largest cider competition in the world with nearly 1,400 entries from 11 countries, clear evidence of the global explosion of the cider category.
And world cidermakers must be sending their best — 37 percent of the honors awarded to the top three entrants in each of the 14 commercial classes went to companies based outside of the United States, including Denmark and Australia.
What makes GLINTCAP so special? First of all, the judges. It’s an international group of experienced cidermakers, journalists and educators. This year’s judging line-up, for example, included Helen Thomas, managing director of Weston’s Cider in the U.K., and Bob Chaplin, chairman of the National Association of Cider Makers, master cidermaker at Magner’s Shepton Mallet facility for more than 40 years and current Chief Steward of the British Cider Championships at the Royal Bath and West Show. Even experienced judges, however, are required to participate in a pre-competition training session to ensure that everyone involved is comfortable with the competition’s exacting evaluation process.
Another factor in GLINTCAP’s growing influence is the thought that goes into defining each of the style classes in which a cider, or perry, may be entered. These have undergone significant revision over the last several years so they not only reflect the many non-traditional ciders that have recently emerged but also so that they can, in effect, be country-neutral while still reflecting the traditional cider styles. This makes it possible, then, for a Danish cidermaker producing a cider that he or she intends to evoke the classic sidra naturales of northern Spain to find just the right place for it to be judged alongside its “peers.” This is not something every competition does, but it’s important for both cidermakers and cider drinkers in the modern global economy.
This year the competition was moved from April to May in order to coincide with the second annual Cider Week Grand Rapids, put on by the Michigan Cider Association. While run by different organizations, the goals are similar – building a showcase where people can learn about and experience world-class ciders.