In this regular column, I pose a single question to three cidermakers in an attempt to discover the similarities and differences between artists of the same craft. This month’s question was inspired by a sports article I recently read about football (ahem, soccer for you Americans) player superstitions.
For example, Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, widely considered the best football player in the world, has a practice of being the last out of the tunnel when going into a game, and when stepping onto the pitch, placing his right foot on the turf first before leaping into the sky for luck.
The notion got me thinking: what about cidermakers? To get to the bottom of this, I asked three cidermakers if they have any quirky routines, procedures or superstitions they employ that might be outside the realm of science.
Do you have any particular habits or superstitions with regards to cidermaking? If no, are there any other higher — or darker — powers that you pray to for a fine ferment?
Matt Wiles, Director of Operations
Troy Deneen, Quality Assurance Manager
Blake’s Hard Cider (Armada, Mich.)
Here at Blake’s Hard Cider, we are oriented toward the science behind fermentation and strive to keep the yeast happy and healthy throughout the entire fermentation. Through diligent sanitation techniques, proper pitch rates, fermentation temperatures and nutrient additions we are able to produce a clean, delicious hard apple cider. It takes a large amount of attention to detail and intuition to keep fermentation rates consistent. We taste our cider multiple times throughout the process to ensure the yeast are producing the flavors we desire. If all else fails, then we begin to pray to the yeast gods and try to coax them with songs. Troy has even gone so far as to whisper to the yeast to try and encourage them.
Jeff Herbert, Owner
Superstition Meadery (Prescott, Ariz.)
While fermentation begins with the spark of an idea, quickly turns to science, and yields something beautiful in the end, there is still a magical aspect to the whole endeavor. On the metaphysical side of the house, I became a certified minister from an online church to officiate a friend’s wedding, so I have been known to perform a benediction to inspire a successful fermentation. Although, I have to say that my friends from Norway’s first meadery, Mjøderiet, taught me an ancient tradition of screaming at the yeast to wake it up, kickstarting the process of fermentation. There are few things as fun as collaborating on a cider or mead project where a bunch of friends yell as loud as they can when pitching the yeast. I highly recommend it!
Abram Goldman-Armstrong, Cidermaker
Tall Ship Craft Cider (Sandefjord, Norway)
Tall Ship Craft Cider/Fjordfolk Mikrobryggeri is built on an old Viking burial ground, so appeasing the old gods and goddesses is important for luck with the fermentation process. The Gokstad Viking ship with remains of a local nobleman was discovered a mile up the creek that flows by the brewery, so chances are there are definitely Viking ghosts around.
Just this morning I was thinking of how to appease Freya, cup bearer and goddess of mead, just as the canning machine technician discovered the cause of an electrical fault.
Lee Reeve is the owner-operator of inCiderJapan G.K. (www.inciderjapan.com), an importer/distributor, retailer, and producer of cider and cider-related goods. He is also the publisher of inCiderJapan, Asia’s first and only bilingual magazine dedicated to all things cider.
Lee Reeve can be reached at email@example.com.