Global Cider Masters 2019: the results in full

We bring you a full report on all the medal-winners from the inaugural Global Cider Masters, which saw traditional and modern ciders shine, as well as an ice cider from Asturias in Spain.

It may have been just a single day of tasting, but our Global Cider Masters revealed a huge amount about this category. Not only did it highlight the skilled producers and class-leading sources, but it also draw attention to the stylistic diversity of cider, and the weaker points within the sector. Overall, importantly, it proved that cider is an exciting drinks category, and one that is perfectly placed to benefit from the key consumer trend of the moment: the demand for so called ‘craft’ products, which tend to be tied to a particular locality.

In terms of the origin of our top performers, the range of countries that shone in the Masters was notable, with samples from Spain and South Africa achieving high scores, along with, in particular, the bastion of traditional cider, Somerset.

Attracting favourable comments from the extremely experienced judges was the character and quality of Sheppy’s Somerset Traditional Cider, and its Oak Matured Vintage version, along with Sxollie Granny Smith Cider – using apples from Elgin in South Africa – and, at the end of the tasting, an ice cider from Pomaradas y Llagares de Sariego in Asturias, Spain.

Notable too about such results was the range of styles these standout ciders covered, from West County style to New World, and Ice Cider too, prompting chair of the judges, leading cider authority and personality, Gabe Cook, to comment on the need for clear segmentation when it comes to selling cider. “There are massive and significant differences in cider style, and yet, if you go to a bar or pub, it is just listed as ‘cider’; there is no stylistic categorisation,” he said, adding, “For example, you could have a bold, rich, tannic Herefordshire cider, or a lean, acid-driven and fruity one from Kent – it would be like comparing Sauvignon Blanc with Malbec.”

As a result, he urged the drinks trade to train its staff on the complexities of cider, and requested that drinks menus and blackboards highlight the basic style of cider on offer by featuring them under a brief range of headings.

While he was complementary about many of the ciders from a range of categories in the Global Cider Masters, be they ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’ in style, he was critical of certain entries in the flavoured category because they failed to show any cider character.

“With some of the flavoured ciders there was no fermented apple character in there; the overriding character was artificiality and sweetness, making them effectively an RTD, and that, I believe, brings the industry into disrepute,” he said.

Summing up, as the day’s tasting came to an end, he spoke of cider’s potential, but also its problem. “Cider’s great opportunity and challenge is that the stylistic variation is vast – from coolest 330ml can with jazzy packing or hopped cider for beer heads, or even traditional-method ciders made in Epernay, employing the winemaking technology of the Champagne industry.”

Continuing, he observed, “Cider is made more like a wine, but presented more like a beer, and at the moment, it sits between beer and wine. However, this means it has the opportunity to appeal to both ends; there is a cider for every single person who likes alcoholic beverages.”

Furthermore, he said of an upsurge in demand for well-made cider of all types, “It has the story, the authenticity, and the quality; it has to happen… I believe, without a doubt, that craft cider is about to have the most amazing growth.”

Indeed, it was just such forecast dynamism for this category that prompted the drinks business to launch the Global Cider Masters, a competition that is, like all tastings in the Global Masters, designed to highlight quality, critique style, and promote emerging trends, due to the competition’s unique sampling process and the use of highly-experienced judges only.

About the competition:

More than 50 ciders were tasted ‘blind’ over the course of one day on Tuesday 13 at the Brewhouse & Kitchen on Geffrye Street in Hoxton, London.

The judges were:

The judges (left to righ): Gabe Cook (chair); James Waddington; Sam Nightingale; Shane McNamara; Patrick Schmitt

Gabe Cook, The Ciderologist (panel chair)

Gabe Cook is The Ciderologist, an award-winning, global cider expert attempting to change the way the world thinks and drinks cider. As well as chairing a number of cider competitions, Gabe is a cider writer, educator, industry consultant and the de facto “go to” independent voice on all matters cider.

James Waddington, Crafty Nectar

James Waddington is co-founder of Crafty Nectar, the UK’s leading online destination for craft cider. He is on a mission to share his love of the fermented apple, connecting consumers with ciders sourced directly from the UK’s best cider makers.

Sam Nightingale, Nightingale Cider Co.

Sam Nightingale is founder and cider maker at the Nightingale Cider Co. In 2015 Sam swapped his job in sound recording for muddy boots and overalls, and returned to his family farm to re-join his brother Tim, and concentrate on doing what he loved – making cider in Kent.

Shane McNamara, ZX Ventures

Shane McNamara is global technical manager at ZX Ventures, the innovation group within AB InBev, the world’s leading global brewer. He was formerly senior technical officer at the Institute of Brewing & Distiller in London, and a chair in the Global Beer Masters by the drinks business.

Patrick Schmitt MW, the drinks business

Patrick Schmitt oversees all the competitions that fall under the Global Masters series by the drinks business, which include tastings for every major grape variety, wine region, and beer category. He is editor-in-chief of the drinks business.

To find out more about the Global Cider Masters, please click here, or, to find out more about the competition series, visit the Global Masters website, or email Sophie Raichura at:

Read more


Over the following pages are the results from 2019’s competition. The Global Masters only publishes the winners of medals.

Beer Masters 2017: the results in full

The results from 2017’s Beer Masters are out, and we bring you the top medallists and overriding style trends in the category. By Patrick Schmitt MW.

Few drinks categories have reinvented themselves as radically as beer. Formerly best known for big-brand lagers, which delivered reliable refreshment and a standard style that crossed continents, even if locally brewed, today, beer can be credited with kick-starting the ‘craft’ movement – a seismic change that sees the unusual and regionally distinct celebrated by producers and consumers.

However, with the sudden emergence of niche brewers on the market, quality is variable, and, as a consequence, in 2016 we launched The Global Beer Masters. Applying our tried-and tested formula for assessing wines and spirits to beer – which sees the drinks business blind tasting drinks according to price and style, but without prejudice about their country of origin – we added beer to our list of products, hosting an inaugural beer tasting competition in London on August last year, and repeated this year in the same month. Using a team of beer experts (see picture and caption below), we scored and discussed a wide range of beers, which were organised into broad style categories.

Furthermore, like last year, we mixed some of the biggest names in the industry within the selection of craft beers, while, as always, we made sure the judges assessed the entries for one thing: quality.

Nigel Sadler is a brewer, former Beer Sommelier of the Year, and vice-chairman of the Southern Section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD)

Outstanding brews
This year, it was pleasing to see a high level of brew across the board, with only a few entrants failing to pick up accolades, and a high number of Silver medals and above awarded, and, importantly two Masters – the competition’s ultimate award, which is given only to exceptional drinks.

“There are a lot of good acceptable beers on the market and a few outstanding ones which are well worth seeking out – something born out by the number of Master awards that were given on the day,” commented one of the judges, Nigel Sadler, who is a brewer, former Beer Sommelier of the Year, and vice-chairman of the Southern Section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).

Another judge, Shane McNamara, a Beer Sommelier and senior technical officer of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD), observed the quality seen in the competition, noting in particular the greater focus on balanced flavours among the entries. “The movement towards more balanced beers was present across the styles tasted this year and the beers that excelled were those balancing aroma, bitterness and flavour with brilliant skill and innovation to produce something that was both bold and moreish,” he said.

Freshness and balance
To consider the categories in turn, starting with the lagers, like last year, the standard was good in a beer style that can show brewing faults clearly, due to its delicate flavour. The judges were impressed by the freshness and balance in some of the larger brands, particularly the Hofmeister Helles and the Peroni Nastro Azzurro. However, it was North America’s Brooklyn Lager that took the Gold in this category in 2017 – an accolade earned by the brewery last year too.

Distance and quality
The Pale Ales and IPAs impressed the judges too, and it was this style that attracted the highest-scores of the day. “The beers that achieved exceedingly well were those that reined in the bitterness to match the fullness of the flavour in the beer yet provide a bounty of hops in the aroma,” commented McNamara. Noting the success in particular of samples from BrewDog and Pirate Life, it was pointed out that although these two brewers are based in very different climes – Scotland and Western Australia respectively – there is a connection: Pirate Life’s founding brewers Jack Cameron and Jared Proudfoot met while improving their brewing skills during apprenticeships at BrewDog. And, commenting on the Pirate Life beers, which picked up two Masters, McNamara said, “Pirate Life proves that distance is not always a barrier for freshness and quality.”

Indeed, speaking more generally about this issue, he said, “The reverence of quality and logistical care taken by brewers, in particular craft brewers, for their beers to arrive in faultless condition was clear in the tasting. The freshness of the bottled/canned beers from the likes of Brooklyn Brewery (United States of America) and Pirate Life (Australia) was impressive and is something to admire. Beer for the large part is a quickly deteriorating beverage best enjoyed fresh and doesn’t take kindly to temperature shifts or even sunlight – keeping it tasting fresh is no mean feat.”

Shane McNamara is a Beer Sommelier and senior technical officer of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD)

New World hops
But to return to the subject of style, another judge, Ian Swanson, who is a Cask Marque assessor, Beer Academy tutor and trade quality brewer for Diageo in Africa, said that he enjoyed the New World hop influence, but felt that its powerful impact may be dominating the market. “I liked some of the beers using New World hops,” he said, “but there were just too many of them!” Continuing, he noted that the tasting “Confirmed my view that there is an over-reliance on New World hops – it is harder to hide brewing faults and lose fermentation flavours (good and bad) using mainly English hops.” As a result, he mourned, “It is getting harder to find a classic ‘English Ale’.”

Similarly, but more cryptically, Sadler said having finished the tasting, “There is a beer to suit everyone and not all styles are to the liking of all: some areas are very narrow and repetitive with some brewers but if that’s their reputation then so be it.”

Dark beer brilliance
But to finish on the positive, an area that also stood out for quality was dark beer. “This year the dark beers were a very strong category across the board,” said McNamara. “Bold balanced flavours were matched with finesse and intrigue for the drinker … the biscuit, rich cocoa and chocolate flavours were integrated well with coffee undertones and hints of vanilla in some.”

And, notable among these brews was the Cream Stout by St. Peter’s Brewery, which he described as “delightful with every sip”. And it is, of course, an ability to sustain such gratification that’s the hallmark of a great beer, whatever the style.

The judges (left to right): Pete Hughes, group head brewer at Brewhouse & Kitchen and accredited beer judge; Jacopo Mazzeo, Beer Sommelier, beer writer and consultant; Ian Swanson from Ian Swanson Technical Brewing Services; Patrick Schmitt MW, editor-in-chief at The Drinks Business; Shane McNamara, senior technical officer at the Institute of Brewing & Distilling; Nigel Sadler, Beer Sommelier & IBD accredited brewing tutor

Over the following pages are the beers that did best in the tasting.