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Cider and Perry Competition Judges

Meet the 2017 Judges!


Ron Sansone, Middletown, CT

I was living in London in the late 80's when I first came upon cider. By the time I returned stateside my taste for cider had grown, but I found that the states were seriously lacking in their offerings. Back home I was able to find some "hard cider," but it wasn't like the ciders in the UK, so I took up home brewing and cider making. This led me to further my cider skills attending classes with Peter Mitchell (Cider & Perry Academy) at Cornell and also Oregon State University's Craft Cidery workshops. I have been blogging about my cider experiences at DrinkingCider.com; have become a cider column contributor at the nation's most widely circulated beer newspaper, The Ale Street News; and am part of the Cider Culture team. I'm an award winning cider maker and judge at GLINTCAP and one of the first certification recipients of the United States Association of Cider Makers' cider certification program as well as served as a judge for CiderDays amateur cider competitions.


Mark Gryska, Northampton, MA

Mark Gryska has been an amateur cider maker for the past twenty years and has been an active participant for Franklin County Cider Days from its beginning. He is a certified BJCP judge and is the organizer of the Franklin County Cider Days Amateur Cider Competition.

Ben Watson, Francetown, NH

Ben Watson is the author of several books, including Cider, Hard and Sweet, 3rd edition (Countryman Press, 2013), He has lectured widely about the history of apples and the re-emergent national and world cider culture.

For the past several years Ben has served as a judge for the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP), held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2016, he also judged at the Dan Berger International Cider Competition held in Santa Rosa, California.

In addition Ben serves on the volunteer committee that organizes Franklin County Cider Days in western Massachusetts, held annually on the first weekend in November. In 2017 Cider Days will celebrate its 23rd anniversary.

Ben is a longtime senior editor at Chelsea Green Publishing, focusing mainly on books on regenerative agriculture, artisan foods, and environmental science.

Since 2000 Ben has been active in the International Slow Food movement and is chairman emeritus of the Slow Food USA Biodiversity Committee.

Charlie Olchowski, Greenfield, MA

Charlie Olchowski has been a judge of alcoholic beverages since the inception of the Beer Judge Certification Program in 1985. He is the ninth judge to be certified in an international program that has over six thousand judges. In organizing one of the competitions for the New England Homebrewer of the Year Award, he and others included ciders and meads in the judging. It was the first real forum for judging ciders. Charlie has judged ciders at many events. He actively works in cider education. He is a panelist in several forums at Cider Days held in Franklin County, Massachusetts each November, which he co-founded with Paul Correnty in 1994. He was a judge in last year's competition at The Big E.

William Grote, Boston, MA

William Grote is a cider maker and orchardist from Boston whose ciders have won multiple First-Place awards at Franklin County Cider Days, including two in the Best of Show, and several medals from the prestigious GLINTCAP International Cider and Perry Competition. William developed a deep knowledge of - and thirst for - real cider during the 10 years he lived in Frankfurt am Main, the cider capital of Germany, and he brought that passion back to New England, where he is currently working with a number of historical orchards and commercial cider makers to develop hyper-local farm based ciders. William received a Bachelor's degree from Cornell University - College of Agriculture and Life Sciences - and an MBA from Boston University. William is a member of the United States Association of Cider Makers and is CPP- Level One certified.

Jason Ouellet, South Grafton, MA

Jason Ouellet is a cider reviewer and amateur cider maker. When he's not in the field restoring apple orchards, perfecting his cider recipes, or in search of the next best rare cider to try; he's writing for his popular cider review blog, The Milled Apple. With a background in science and arborculture, Jason is most interested in how apple selection, orchard methods, and the climate affect the cider making process. You can learn more about him on Instagram @themilledapple


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