Interview: Cider Exam and Guideline Updates
After successfully creating and implementing a Mead Exam, the BJCP has nearly completed the development of a Cider Exam, including updates to the BJCP Cider guidelines. We interview Dave Houseman, the effort Lead, to learn more.
Jeff Sanders, Assistant Communication Director
> New Cider Exam incrementally rolled out in 2014
> New Cider Guidelines revised due to massive growth in the commercial Cider industry
> Cider Guidelines revised with significant commercial and industry input
> Passing exam to provide Cider Accreditation to existing judges

Grand Master Judge and BJCP Competition Director David Houseman announced at the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference that an effort was underway to create a Cider Exam, and to update the BJCP’s style guidelines for Cider to align with the new Exam.

As far back as the original BJCP style guidelines of 1997, cider has been included as a style for which guidelines exist for judging. In 2006, the BJCP decided to create separate exams for mead and for cider. Eight years later, the cider exam and updated guidelines are set to debut, and begin a new era for the BJCP.

Assistant Communication Director Jeff Sanders recently interviewed David Houseman, the lead of the cider exam development effort, on the status of the effort.

What's the impetus for the creation of a Cider Exam?

Cider, along with mead, has been judged in BJCP competitions since its inception; however there was no training or testing for knowledge in these beverages. In 2006, the BJCP created the Mead Judge Program and the Cider Judge Program. Mead was addressed first and in 2009 the Mead Judge Exam was first introduced. In 2012, the BJCP created the Cider Exam Committee to provide training and testing in order to improve judges’ knowledge and ability to judge cider in home and commercial competitions.

Will the exam be an entirely separate certification or an add-on accreditation like the mead exam?

Yes, there will be a Cider Judge Accreditation and endorsement for current BJCP members, analogous to the Mead Judge. The Cider Exam program will be a cider version of the Mead Judge Program.

The 1997 version of the BJCP Style Guidelines only included 2 commercial examples of cider. Has the cider industry changed enough to warrant a separate exam, and if so, how?

Cider drinking in the USA has been gaining in popularity. This has been noticed by large breweries that have bought cideries and begun mass distribution of craft cider. US ciders, just as Angry Orchard, bought and distributed by Boston Brewing Company, is now regularly on tap. Fruited ciders, spiced and hopped ciders, previously made by home cider makers are now available from a number of commercial craft cider makers.

With interest in ciders growing so much, cider styles and commercial examples must be evolving fairly rapidly. Did those changes cause any criticism of the current guidelines, which only change every 4-5 years?

There has not been criticism of the BJCP style guidelines for cider from the home-cider community; however the guidelines had not kept up with the rapidly developing commercial cider community in the USA. Since the style guidelines will be used for both home and commercial competitions, and home cider makers closely follow commercial cider making, and vice-versa, there was a need to update the cider style guidelines to better reflect current cider making and its terminology.

How will the revisions to the guidelines address the criticisms?

The cider style guidelines were submitted to a panel of cider makers, including commercial cider makers who updated the guidelines to be acceptable to both home and commercial cider competition entrants and judges.

When was the last time that the guidelines were created/updated?

The BJCP style guidelines have been updated periodically since first canonized in 1998, the last time in 2008. The cider styles have seen minor edits until recently. A committee of cider makers, home and commercial, worked together to update the BJCP Cider Style Guidelines and the Cider Judge Form that are now posted on the BJCP web site and are part of the Cider Exam program.

Cider Digest is a frequently cited resource for home cider making. Do you feel it to be a credible one?

Cider Digest is a very credible discussion forum for cider makers. Participants are both commercial and home cider makers and from beginner to the expert. A number of the commercial cider makers who participate on Cider Digest have been the Subject Matter Experts on the Cider Exam Committee, creating and reviewing the Cider Exam Study Guide.

Since the Cider Judge program and exam will closely resemble the Mead Judge Program and exam, there are probably some lessons learned from the Mead Judge program. Do you feel that the effort to create a Mead Judge Program and exam was successful?

The Mead Judge Program has been successful, with 118 currently certified mead judges. By partnering with Mead Makers International, the mead judges are recognized and accepted by commercial as well as home mead makers, entrants and competitions.

What’s the timeline for the cider exam to be rolled out?

Current plans will allow an initial cider exam to be hosted and graded in the Winter or early Spring of 2014 with formal roll-out at the 2014 Homebrewers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Are there plans to revisit the exam or updates to the guidelines in the future?

As always, we will continue to assess all BJCP programs and content for continuous improvement as necessary. On-line exams for both the mead and cider exams are one consideration but the return for the resource investment must be weighed along with other efforts that would draw on our limited volunteer resources.

How will you, the Cider Exam committee, and the BJCP consider it a success?

Success will be measured by the number of individuals who participate in the Cider Exam program by taking and passing the exam and then using their knowledge and skills in judging home and commercial cider competitions. Acknowledgement, acceptance and participation by commercial cider makers and the newly formed United States Association of Cider Makers will also be one metric of success. However, the true measure of success will be better judging and feedback to entrants by the cider judges who take and pass the Cider Exam.


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