Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide

imageLet’s get the down side out of the way first. This is not a book you’ll pick up for light entertainment. It’s not a particularly a lively read, nor is it often witty (though the wit, where it comes out, is as dry as a good cider). The only hint of romance you’ll find lies in the author’s eloquent dedication of the book to his wife. As a book to pass a sunny autumn afternoon, all told, it fails spectacularly.

If, on the other hand, such an autumn afternoon might find you wishing for a cool glass of home-brewed cider… ah, now that’s another matter entirely. That’s when this book suddenly becomes much more compelling.

Because what we have here is a comprehensive, concise textbook in the art of brewing cider and perry (or pear cider), from start to finish. Aside from being a dedicated ciderist, Simon McKie is a Barrister and Chartered Accountant, a fact which will come as no surprise after you’ve read a page or two: there is a formal background in systematic thought that is evident in every aspect of this book. The material is extraordinarily well organised and very clearly presented. It is perhaps unavoidable – but true all the same – to say that this is a man who knows how to state his case.

Step by step, McKie provides charts, figures, sources for supplies (more useful for readers in the British Isles than for the transatlantic audience), storage, and pertinent bits of cidermaking history. Terminology is explained clearly as it is introduced, and introduced at the clearest moment for understanding of the overall process. My eyes tend to lose focus when ploughing – or attempting to plough – through too much technical detail: so it was with some surprise that I found I was following McKie’s whole book with a sense of nearly perfect understanding. (Just how valid that sense actually is, of course, will only be proved by my first batch of perry from the old orchard.) The text is livened with old photos of equipment and labour, in addition to sundry photos of the author’s family and friends illustrating vital stages in the making and consumption of home-brewed cider.

The book is explicitly focused on cidermaking as it takes place in Great Britain: so as a would-be cidermaker in California, it’s going to take me (for example) a certain amount of work to adapt some of McKie’s principles to local supplies and apple varieties. However, anyone interested in trying to craft a traditional British-style cider, in whatever location, will find this slim volume an invaluable resource and an endless source of inspiration.

(Shire, 2011)

Gereg Jones Muller

Gereg has been teaching international weaponry arts for over thirty years, playing traditional and original music for over forty years, and writing for nearly fifty years. He plays several musical instruments, and has performed at Renaissance Faires, pubs, high schools, and the Ben Lomond Highland Games. His poetry has been published in Charles deLint’s short-lived “Beyond the Fields We Know” magazine, The Chunga Review, and the Towne Cryer. In 1980 he founded the Yeomen of the Queen’s Guard at the original Renaissance Faire in Agoura, California; he’s been Musical Director for the Guild of St. Luke at the Northern California Renaissance Faire; he played Morris music for Seabright Morris and Sword in Santa Cruz, California, and taught teen martial arts programs in International Swordplay for several years through the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Dep’t. At present he’s working on a novel combining Renaissance sword arts, the Reformation, historical paganism and English Fairy traditions. Inevitably, it’s predicted as a trilogy. Dedicated to developing a tradition of marital romantic poetry, he’s generally working on a sonnet or a song for his wife. He’s trying desperately to win the Renaissance Man Sweepstakes, and continues to labour under the delusion that that will get him something.

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