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The Largest Cider Judging Competition in the World (GLINTCAP) – Through the Lens of Eric Lewandowski


This is a guest post by Eric Lewandowski – an internationally recognised artist and photographer and an avid cider connoisseur. His love for the outdoors took him out of the dark development room and into the world of cider. The photo essay below takes us behind the scenes at the 2017 edition of the largest cider judging competition in the world; GLINTCAP in the US. Through Eric’s lens we meet the judges, the process and the breathtaking scenery.

While attending CiderCon this past February in Chicago, I heard about the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) which is held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and happens to be the largest cider judging competition in the world by entries.  I also happened to be working with a cider maker from Michigan on a project designing labels for his new cidery, so I decided to schedule the trip for the competition and combine it with a visit to my design client in the Leelanau Peninsula area of the state. Since I was to be there for a few days, I took the opportunity to visit a few other cider makers in the state where I could photograph and add some cider makers from the Midwest to my portfolio of apple and cider related imagery.

The side trips were incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring an area of the US that I’d never visited before, and was made aware of how mature the fruit growing and cider-making culture is in the state. From tart cherries and apple trees, which occupy large swaths of agricultural land, to an established viticultural tradition of growing cool climate grape varieties and making some skilfully crafted wines, it was a real eye opener!

GLINTCAP, the competition, was an absolutely amazing experience and, given that I’ve only been drinking cider for a short time, it was a crash course into the intricacies of tasting and evaluating a huge number of ciders.  The night before the judging was to begin all stewards and judges attended a sensory analysis training to help identify the chemical compounds that cause off flavours and aromas typically referred to as barnyard, bandaid, petrol, volatile acidity, etc.  The training was a bit overwhelming as a first-time attendee, but ultimately designed to aid in the evaluation process and establish a baseline flavour profile to be used to bring all the judges into alignment.

Fortunately I was utilized as a steward for the competition rather than a judge and got to pour and serve the various flights out to specific tables that we were responsible for during each tasting round. Typically each flight within a specific category (wood aged) for example, had 9-12 bottles and was tasted by a table of 3 people which were a mix of veteran and less experienced judges with the idea that the more experienced judges acted as the lead taster helping to provide guidance during the evaluations.

Over the course of 1.5 days approximately 30 stewards poured 1,200 ciders to 90+ judges and awarded 98 Gold, 332 Silver and 440 bronze medals to both 963 commercial and 243 non-commercial ciders from 33 US States, 6 Canadian Provinces, England, Estonia, Finland, France, New Zealand and Spain in the following categories: Modern Cider-Dry, Modern Cider-Sweet, Heritage Cider-Dry, Heritage Cider-Sweet, Traditional Cider-Dry, Traditional Cider-Sweet, Sour Cider, Modern Perry, Traditional Perry, Fruit Cider, Hopped Cider, Spiced Cider, Wood Aged Cider, Specialty Cider and Perry, Unlimited Cider and Perry, Ice Cider, Fortified Cider, Spirits, Non-Commercial Division- Standard Styles and Non-Commercial Division- Specialty Styles.


First Stop: Eastman’s Antique Apple Orchard/ Forgotten Cider (Medaled at GLINTCAP 2017)

Location: Wheeler, Michigan (central part of state, very flat landscape)

I met the owners Nicole and Raaf at Cidercon in Chicago back in Feb 2017.

I was then invited to attend an orchard and cider tour and tasted a number of their ciders. They grow 1000 varieties of antique and heirloom apples and use many red-fleshed varieties in blends.

See pictures below:

Nicole, Cidermaker Outside Forgotten Ciders Tasting Room

Tree Tag, Eastman Antique Orchard, Michigan

Apple Bin, Eastman Antique Orchard, Michigan 



Spraying Equipment, Eastman Orchard, Michigan

Eastman Antique Orchard, Michigan

GLINTCAP Awarded Ciders at Forgotten Ciders



Second Stop: VerSnyder Orchards/ Top Wire Cider  (Medaled at GLINTCAP 2017)

Location:  Lake Leelanau, Michigan

Lake Michigan,  in the northwestern part of the state, tempers the climate and is known for apple and tart cherries, wine grapes grown Riesling, chardonnay and pinot blanc.

The family are a longtime grower of fruit and Kevin VerSnyder, having made cider for a number of years, is going commercial this year. I’ve designed their logo and bottle labels. Top Wire Cider won bronze and silver medals at GLINTCAP with 6 of the 8 ciders that they submitted into the competition.

See images below:

Newly Planted “Tall Spindle” Cider Fruit, VerSnyder Orchards, Michigan

“Baby” Cider Fruit Trees, Michigan



Orchardist/Cidermaker of VerSnyder Orchards, Top Wire Cider, Michigan

Delivery of Young Cider Fruit Trees

Cidermaker of Top Wire Cider, Michigan

Loading Nursery Trees, VerSnyder Orchards, Michigan



Lake Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan



Third Stop: Pux Cider (medaled at GLINTCAP 2017)

Location: Conklin, Michigan  western/Central part of state

This is a huge apple growing area which is often referred to as “The Ridge”. Most apples are grown in high density plantings trellised like grapes. Many orchards are tearing out standard and semi-dwarf trees to plant high density cider fruit. The cider apples planted now will be coming online shortly.

See images below:

Notes on Recently Planted Cider Fruit, Michigan

“V” Trellis Apple Trees, Michigan

Schaefer Cider Company, Michigan

Newly Planted “Tall Spindle” Cider Orchard, Michigan



Final stop: The 12th Annual  Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP)

Location: April 20-21, 2017  Grand Rapids, Michigan

Final Results

1,206 Total Entries

870 Medals Awarded — 98 Gold, 332 Silver, 440 Bronze

Best in Class Awards [PDF]

See images below:

Sensory Analysis Training, GLINTCAP 2017

Judging Ciders, GLINTCAP 2017

Tasting Room w/Judges, GLINTCAP 2017

Fruit Cider Category Tasting Flight, GLINTCAP 2017



Bins of Cider Entries, GLINTCAP 2017

Steward Checking Bottles before Judging, GLINTCAP 2017

Stewarding Flights to Judges, GLINTCAP 2017

Ice Cider Category Tasting Flight, GLINTCAP 2017



Eleanor, Cidermaker from Eden Specialty Ciders, GLINTCAP 2017

Uncle John’s Cider Mill Perry, GLINTCAP 2017



Aroma Analysis, GLINTCAP 2017

Judge Filling Out Score Card, GLINTCAP 2017



Spanish/ Sour Cider Category Judging, GLINTCAP 2017

Best In Show Final Judging, GLINTCAP 2017

Riestra, Spanish Sidra, GLINTCAP 2017

Stewarding Flights to Judges, GLINTCAP 2017



Judges Bill Bradshaw (UK) and Gabe Cook “The Ciderologist” (UK) at Final Presentation, GLINTCAP 2017

“Throwing” Spanish Sidra, GLINTCAP 2017



To find out more about Eric and his incredible work devoted to heirloom apples and cider, please follow the links below:

Have a read of our article dedicated to cider inspired art Cider Photography and Illustration : Bill Bradshaw and Eric Lewandowski

Eric’s portfolio of heirloom apples illustrations can be viewed here

For more of Eric’s cider inspired photography check out his homepage here

To contact Eric directly visit his Linkedin profile or jot him a line on Twitter


About The Author

Iva is a co-founder at The Cider Link. She is a well rounded connoisseur of fine food and drink, with years of international industry experience. She lives in Melbourne and brings to you ciders you never knew existed.