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Cider Digest #2004

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Cider Digest
 · 9 Apr 2024

Subject: Cider Digest #2004, 27 November 2015 

Cider Digest #2004 27 November 2015

Cider and Perry Discussion Forum

Janitor's musings on 21 years (Cider Digest Admin)
CD 2003 blocked for some subscribers (Cider Digest Admin)
This time for sure! (Cider Digest Admin)
ancient plaintext in a hyper-media world (Cider Digest Admin)
cider in shops (Cider Digest Admin)
our people (Cider Digest Admin)
books (Cider Digest Admin)
sugarbombs (Cider Digest Admin)
janitoring (Cider Digest Admin)

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Digest Janitor: Dick Dunn

Subject: Janitor's musings on 21 years
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:56:28 -0700 (MST)

I've now been caretaker of the Cider Digest for the most recent 1500
issues (504-2003), sweeping up the bits for just 21 years as of today.
I decided to be imperious and devote an entire issue to my perspectives,
retrospectives, and digest matters. If any of it is interesting or sparks
discussions, fine. If not, you can delete this one digest and you won't
have lost anything! Watch out, I might do this again in the future and I
might not wait another 21 years.

Why do I represent myself as the "janitor"? It's because people tend to
think a list like this has a "moderator"--which I am NOT. My jobs are to
clean out the spam, deal with subscriptions, and keep things running.
Moderation is the job of the entire group...and that works.

The Cider Digest continues to be successful, although it--like myself--is
getting a bit long in the tooth. (More on that in another note.) It's
been around since even before we were even anticipating the great liftoff
of cider, let alone before it actually started to happen.

It's interesting that there's not many serious alternatives to the Digest,
particularly given its spartan nature. There's the Cider Workshop of
course, and that's really good. But a lot of us participate in both and
feel they're very much complementary rather than competing: The Digest
is just that--a digest of multiple articles per issue, appearing every few
days on average. The Workshop is a reflector--mail sent to it goes out
immediately, one message at a time. This makes the Workshop more helpful
when a quick response is needed/wanted. It also makes the Workshop far
more "chatty"--good when you're in the mood, not-so-good during harvest/
press when there isn't so much time for winnowing. And although both lists
are truly international in subscribership, the Digest is mainly North
American while the Workshop is mainly British.

I don't see a lot else after CD and CW.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: CD 2003 blocked for some subscribers
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:56:33 -0700 (MST)

There's some sort of poetic (or perverse) justice that the Digest
immediately preceding this one was blocked by a few mail transfer agents.

The excuse is that 2003 contained some sort of spam...but these mailers
are as inept as they are overzealous; they give no way to find out what
they regarded as spam! This event is relatively rare, but it's one of the
real un-fun parts of being the janitor when it happens.

If you didn't get CD 2003, I can't fix's your ISP's mail service
at fault. I can tell you that if you want to fetch it, you can see
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: This time for sure!
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:56:49 -0700 (MST)

"Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"
Not unlike Bullwinkle's ongoing magic trick...and its failures...the cider
renaissance we all expected particularly in the US, year after year, just
never happened for so long.

We knew that it had to happen; everything was just so obvious. We'd
watched the craft beer renaissance for decades. We saw boutique wineries
take off and take hold. It was no longer pale thin lager and dreadful
plonk...but cider just didn't seem to get traction as we'd expected.
There were serious cidermakers in the US as long ago as the mid-1980's.
I'd like to hear from them about what the first ten years were like!

Part of the problem was (and still is) the limitations of orchards...they
just take years to get going and bear good-quality fruit. But that's not
all that has held cider back. It seems that cultural factors weren't
right, and/or we weren't able to get hold of them.

Then too, cider in the US had been knocked back well before Prohibition.
Prohibition plus later cultural factors (urbanization for example) meant
that cider couldn't bounce back as beer, and later wine, had.

BUT it seems we're on our way now. Perhaps the growth -was- exponential
ten years ago and it was just that the reference numbers were so small?
(ObNerd: An exponential curve is self-similar.)

With the explosive growth, we see commercial cidermakers taking very
different paths, and then eyeing one another with some distaste or at least
suspicion. There are the craft ultra-purists, the traditionalists, the
experimentalists, the industrialists...and of course all middle grounds.

I don't see this as bad; rather it's a sign that we're growing up. Just
as beer has its Bud Light and PBR, contrasted with trad bitters, alongside
the triple-digit-IBU left-coast ales, and the mango-pumpkin-rosemary sours,
cider is marking out known territory and exploring the weird beyond. I
don't drink industrial cider (any more than I drink Bud Light). But it's
part of the "market" which is emerging.

Still, I do hope we'll finish up some of the current experimentation with
conclusions that "we don't want to go there". There are certainly some
ciders around the edge which people only drink because they're different
and therefore avant-garde. They need to be able to cut the fake-coolness
and say, "No, I'm sorry, this is just plain bad." I know some cidermakers
think any variation is reasonable and all estimations of quality are
individually subjective. I say we discern good from bad by consensus, and
in a world where there is nothing acknowledged as bad, there is also
nothing truly good. No, there -are- objective criteria and we'll need to
understand and develop them to promote the general appreciation of cider.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: ancient plaintext in a hyper-media world
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:56:58 -0700 (MST)

The Cider Digest remains plain text in a world of HTML, embedded images,
audio and video clips, etc. The sole concession over the years was to
expand it from a strictly US-centric 7-bit character set to Latin-1
(ISO 8859-1) so that we can spell western European names and terms
properly. That's still very spartan. It does spare us from some of the
wretched excesses such as full-color animated emoji, but it's more limiting
than it seems it might be.

We're aware of the low-tech limits of the Digest. ("We" am a few people
who've talked now and then about how to bring the CD into the current
millennium, tech-wise.)

When I've asked subscribers in the past about how we might improve the
technical capabilities of the Digest, the most common response has been,
"Please don't mess with it." The serious cidermaking readership is perhaps
limited in tech savvy, but actually more in hardware and bandwidth: If
you have an orchard you're necessarily in a lower population density area,
where high-speed Internet may not be available. (I count myself lucky to
have 3 Mbit/sec typical.) And if you're spending on tractors or 306
stainless, a high-end computer setup may not be your top priority for
either spending or learning. During harvest/press you won't have the time,
or will just be too damned tired, to wait for fancy stuff to download or
to look it over.

Perhaps this speaks to an idea of a basic Digest not much different from
the past, with "Digest Plus" content available by reaching out? I'd be
glad to hear ideas; send to me offline if you're afraid they're Not Ready
for Prime Time.

On Digest mechanism, one question I get frequently is "Why can't you make
it either immediate-distribution or digest format at subscriber's choice?"
My experience is that this is ultimately very confusing to the readers.
It works in a case like Cider Workshop because almost all subscribers get
the immediate email. If there's a substantial split between immediate and
digest, you get a discussion going on in email for a while and then the
digest readers get a dump of a piece of the discussion. They attempt to
reply, but the discussion has continued in the meantime. Eventually you
get questions answered multiple times but nobody understands, answers and
questions out of sync and confusing...and I've seen it with other groups
too much. Cider Digest is de jure digest only. Cider Workshop is de facto
immediate email only. That's why each one works well in its own way.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: cider in shops
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:57:05 -0700 (MST)

One of the most significant changes in getting the average American to
start to understand real cider is getting it into shops. Over the time
I've been maintaining the digest, it's only within the past five years or
less that it would be possible (outside of a few privileged hot-spots) to
find any serious cider in an "average" liquor store. So, if people can't
find it, they can't try it, right?

But now, where I am, I can go into a small city and find in a decent liquor
store not only the handful of major-industrials (plus the cloaked ones) but
all of the local cider producers (whose existence, in itself, is
noteworthy) plus many serious imports like Oliver, Henney, Hogan, Peckham,
Aspall, and more. One particular importer has been a big help here.

This--availability--is one key point in getting cider out to T C Mits.
The other, companion, is getting shopkeepers educated so that they can help
people find real cider. But first it has to be in the store. Finally that
is happening for real.

And you, Gentle Reader, can help by finding the shops which care about real
cider, checking whether the shop staff understand what they've got, and
even offering to help them educate people.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: our people
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:57:10 -0700 (MST)

With the benefit of many years, the Cider Digest has attracted the interest
of people who have a lot to contribute. As these folks interact with
others whose interest is growing, a couple things happen.

First, we've built a bit of a sense of community. We know some key people
and some others who toss in now and then. We have a sense of who they are,
so that eases the interactions.

Second, we're better at finding answers.

I suppose on principle I shouldn't single out anybody...but I will. It was
a turning point when Andrew Lea joined and started contributing. It wasn't
just that Andrew contributed a lot -as-such-, but that he also raised the
bar for everyone else's contributions. It became a bad idea to assert
things you didn't really know. We started cross-checking each others'
science. It helped a lot that Andrew has not only theory but practice to
back it up.

There are notable contributors who've been on the cider scene for a long
time...and history of experience is valuable in a way no book learning can
be. At the risk of embarrassing omissions...Julian Temperley of Burrow
Hill in Somerset drops in once in a while to set us straight, based on
more time cidermaking than most of us can grasp. Steve Wood is a similar
force this side of the puddle, again with decades rather than just years of
experience. Rich Anderson out on an island off Washington brings the benefit
of lots of years plus a scientific/engineering attitude. Claude Jolicoeur
has been with us for quite a few years but has recently been able to
contribute a lot more, plus of course we're vastly grateful for his book.
Gary Awdey and Charles McGonegal drop in when they can, always with sound
thinking. Al Yelvington tries interesting things and gives us ideas. I
dunno...that's a start, and don't feel badly if I forgot you!
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: books
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:57:18 -0700 (MST)

The cider community, particularly in the US, has benefited greatly from the
growth of good books about cider in recent years. This is key to getting
the ideas of cidermaking out everywhere. Sure, if you're in Portland it's
easy to find info, people to talk to, organizations, and examples. But if
you're in Peoria it will be a lot harder.

If I look back 21 years to when I took over the CD, there wasn't much.
Really there was only one book then; a second came along not long after.
That first book (Proulx and Nichols) fortunately was pretty good for its
time. Nevertheless, it had its quirks and inconsistencies--problems which
are remedied not by turning it into the perfect book, but rather by having
multiple books to compare and contrast. Proulx and Nichols is still around
and available, now in its third edition, but rather dated (2003).

But now I can look at the cider section of my bookshelf and have something
to take in. I remember some years back when it went past one thirty-inch
shelf and I thought "Wow! This is getting serious!" We're getting books
on cidermaking, cider-understanding (for the non-cidermaker), orchard
practice, apple varieties, and all the intersections.

I just went down my bookshelf counting the books I particularly like, or
find particularly valuable for one reason or another. It's about 25 books.
That comes to the "critical mass" level where no book on any topic is
"Hobson's choice" any more. Note that's not 25 total!...that number is
much larger. It's 25 I consider notably good.

Along the path of so many books appearing, naturally there are some
ringers, books which Should Not Have Been Published. But, well, there's
two things about that situation. First, like it or not, it's a measure of
"success" or "maturity" that a topic can be of sufficient interest that a
publisher sees a market and can put out a bad book in hopes of selling it!
Second, with enough books available, the bad ones will probably get weeded
out. There are only 3 books in my collection I consider "Bad", and one of
those is thankfully out of print.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: sugarbombs
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:57:25 -0700 (MST)

One aspect of the emerging cider market in the US which -really- discourages
me is the use of sugar in the mass-market industrial ciders. In rough
terms the most successful commercial ciders are the sweetest...and they are
VERY sweet.

It bothers me first because it's just pandering. Americans have notorious
sweet-tooth responses. It's not "what the market wants" but rather "what
the market can be led to" by playing to an addiction. And if you want to
know "what's wrong with that?" one quick answer is "it won't last." The
sugar levels can be pushed higher until it's all in the alco-pop market,
where cost is king and cider will lose long-term. Or the sugar levels can
stay just high enough for a simplistic out-of-balance sweet drink, which
becomes un-memorable. Anybody remember "White Zin"? For a while in the
US, so much zinfandel was made as a pale rosé (not easy with such a dark
grape!) that liquor stores had to mark their sections of true zinfandel
with signs saying "Red Zinfandel"! When cider gets big enough to have
multiple sections marked out in a liquor store, will we need signs marking
sections as "Dry Cider" or "Natural Cider"?!?

It bothers me also because these industrial ciders are SO sweet they risk
turning off the people who might appreciate real cider. Those of us who
want to promote serious, full-juice, craft-quality cider co-exist with the
mass-market near-alcopop ciders by telling ourselves those ciders are the
"gateway drugs":-) which will entice people to try more and better ciders
after a while. But we have to do the accounting properly, balance the
books, and understand that if the industrial ciders are too far different
from suggesting what craft cider has to offer, we might lose more than we
gain. That is, new potentially-serious cider drinkers may be turned off by
the sugarbombs and never get to the more serious ciders.

a couple real-world notes...

One large British cidermaker which used to produce a medium-dry cider,
kinda sweet but not overwhelming, has replaced that one cider with two
products within the past 2 years. Each of the replacements are more than
twice as sweet as the older one. I guess their market research told them
to do that, although neither one seems to be selling well.

A mid-scale US cidermaker is starting to put "Nutrition Facts" on his
labels--not because he's required to do so, but because it puts the sugar
numbers in front of customers so they can see that his ciders actually are
low in sugar compared to the industrial ciders (which -must- indicate their
massive sugar content on labels).
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


Subject: janitoring
From: (Cider Digest Admin)
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:57:32 -0700 (MST)

This is the last piece of my monologue because it has the least to do with
cider _per_se_. It's about the highs and lows of maintaining the Cider
Digest for all these years.

Definitely the best thing is seeing how the Digest helps people connect
with one another. I mean not just finding information, but finding other
people, establishing relationships to work together, and moving cider along
with new-found colleagues. Fundamentally I'm an introvert (really!); I'm
not a leader, but at my best a "connector"--one who makes it possible for
people to connect with one another...just the little things that get people
to talking.

No question the weirdest thing about "janitoring" (pardon my verbing if you
will) is the doors which have opened for me in the cider world, including
meeting some of the best people, getting into judging and speaking, etc.
See, the janitor work really has nothing to do with cider! It's low-level
computer sys admin work; I don't even need to be any sort of wizard. But
it's opened enough doors for me that I eventually have learned a bit about

[Aside: The computer which hosts the Cider Digest is as laughable as
myself. It's 15 years old, and you can imagine the specs which go with
such a computer. Even at that it's overkill. I just don't get the folks
on some other digests who have an ongoing plea for contributions to support
equipment upgrades. I wonder what they -really- do with that equipment.]

The worst thing about janitor work is the spam. Even with good spam
blocking here, a lot of what I do is finding and tossing spam. It's not
just the wasted time; it's distasteful. But it's become a Cause for me not
to let any spam into the Cider Digest.

Oh, and the -weirdest- thing about handling the digest is how some people
perceive how it works. I've been with this stuff so long, it's hard for me
to understand how people misunderstand. But, example: Suppose you're a
subscriber but you need/want to unsubscribe. How do you do it? You send
mail to and say "unsubscribe". That mail is
actually read by a human so it's fairly forgiving.

Yet you might be surprised at how many people think they unsubscribe by
replying to the most recent digest, including a complete copy of that
previous digest, with the reply going to the article-submission address!
Imagine, if you were getting a newspaper but wanted to cancel your
subscription: Would you mail a copy of yesterday's editorial page to the
editor of the newspaper?!? That's how the above looks from here.

Well...let's get back to cider! There are a couple articles pending.
- ---
Cider Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA


End of Cider Digest #2004

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