Initiative 522

November 2, 2013

For those about to vote in Washington regarding Initiative 522 and the labeling of products that contain genetically modified foods, you should watch the last half hour of Botany of Desire. I wrote about this PBS documentary a year ago. I want to draw your attention to the potato and history of genetically modified foods in this case.

The film is neither for nor against genetically modifying plants, so it makes for an interesting watch. At the heart, it really criticizes how the public demands the same quality of food with every eating experience, and so farmers plant only one variety to meet that demand. Now this variety, after time, will begin to grow week, as we are not allowing it to evolve into a new variety, yet the pests and diseases are. The plants begin to have no resistance. For traditional farms to compensate, the film argues, we either have to spray or make genetic modifications. The film does offer a third solution, which does require a little bit more education on the consumer’s end.

Further reading: The Columbian, Local farmers come down on both sides of I-522. Oct 20, 2013


Cider News: August 2013

August 30, 2013

August saw signs of the growing US cider industry taking its next steps in challenging the archaic tax code laws they are subjected to.

I finally got on the smart phone bandwagon. In June, we have been to four beer/cider events, so I started looking into apps for tasting notes. As I see it, I could either haul around my tasting book all the time, or just take it to events. But what if I was out and about and come across something I wanted in my note book but didn’t have it with me? That’s where an app would be so much better: I always have my notes with me because I have my phone with me, but I wasn’t having to carry around an extra book to achieve this same thing.

For starters, there is nothing out there for cider, which makes me a little sad. I tried to use something like Google Docs to make a form based on the wine judging I’ve done, Blogger Cider Pages, and Andrew Lea’s Class and First Tier of Cider Flavour Descriptors. The result was that I still ended up grabbing my notebook because it was faster and easier to write in. This is kind of a shame, because my notes are not as through as they should be, so this really would have put me through the paces.

Moving on to beer, I ended up finding an app called Beeer (yes, there are three E’s in that name). There is a Lite version or a $0.99 version, which I got the full $0.99 version. It is pretty basic in that it has you enter the name, company, style, star rating, ABV, IBU, OG, TG, method of storage (bottle, can, draft, growler, cask), a beer wheel, allows you to take a photo, and then enter notes. I really liked the beer wheel, though I actually think for beer that it might actually be stopping me from thinking of other characteristics that might not be on the wheel. Maybe, because I’m a little slow with the keyboard, I wasn’t really taking additional notes. However, it is beer, which is not my strong suit, so this wheel did have me thinking about floral or citrus, etc, things I know I should be thinking about, but don’t actually do. This is actually the only app this company makes, which is unfortunate. I would really like it if they had one for wine or for cheese.

Which brings me to cheese, as two of the events I went to this past month were cheese tastings. The app I found was called Cheese Tasting Tracker (free version limits you to 25 entries). It is pretty simple in that it allows you to enter a name, producer, location, date, type, age, region, rating, and notes. Because I am a slow cell phone typer, and because I was liking the Beeer app with its beer tasting wheel, I abandoned this app in favor of a small tasting book called 33 Pieces of Cheese (The website lets you see exactly how the tasting pages are). Again, the tasting wheel is helping me develop my palette and maybe even expand my vocabulary on cheese, but I think some day it will hold me back.

I think there is a lot of potential for tasting apps out there that have yet to be tapped into. Too bad I don’t know more about programming to develop them!

What about you? Have you found some cider, cheese, beer, or wine tasting apps you like?

Cider News: April 2013

April 26, 2013

Cider is still on the rise, but to quote James Wilmore at Just-Drinks, “A report in February suggested that cider still suffered from a lack of distrubution in the US and the need to invest in the category’s image.”

Other Industry News:

NPR: Craft-Beer-Crazy Oregon Poised to Name Official State Microbe. April 5, 2013

Quit My Wine Club

March 4, 2013

I’ve been a member of a wine club for about two and a half years now. I went to about three quarters of the meeting a year, in which I enjoyed talking to fellow wine makers, getting feedback on my wine and cider, and eating some great food.

But it seemed like my wine club and I were never completely a great fit together. The obvious difference was that I am a young female, while most of them were retired males, and the wives didn’t make wine but instead told the men what they wanted to drink. I didn’t let that bother me, but the club was really formed so that they could band together and get large purchases of grapes for lower prices. As a result, the meetings all year long would be over what kind of grapes to get, the cost, the equipment, who was getting the grapes, etc. I was so bored.

The last wine club meeting I went to was in November, which ended up voting that each household start paying dues so the club could by equipment. While it was not my intention not to attend again as a way to get out of the dues, that seems to have happened. No, originally, I did not go back because of my health, and then I kind of dreaded hosting.

Meanwhile, Burtle took me to a meeting or two with his beer brewing club. While I’m not entirely thrilled with beer, I found it to be the same, yet different. For example, all of the brewers are male, and most of them older, maybe even retired. Burtle is young compared to them. Their wives sometimes attend, sometimes not, but if they do, it involves a bottle of wine instead of telling the husbands what to make. I’m kind of a novelty, as I’m not a brewer, but I totally understand the process and will ask a lot of questions of these guys. So, their meeting consists of them getting together, tasting each other’s homebrew. Sometimes they might talk about a style or yeast as an agenda, just like my wine group did, but the similarity stops there. There was no talk of buying things together as a club, like grains, hops, and a brewing system. These guys are just there to try the beer and get feedback.

And then it occurred to me after not attending for the third month in a row that despite missing the talking to wine makers, tasting wine, and eating food, I was really looking forward to my husband’s upcoming beer brewer’s meeting this month that I had only recently started attending. Or rather, I didn’t miss the drama of the business meetings my wine group had. Basically, I need a wine tasting club that is made up of wine makers who want feedback on their wines. I know there is a wine tasting society that meets once a month, but that costs $35 a meeting because I think the wine and food is pre-purchased every time. I want this to be… organic. I don’t mean chemical free, I mean a club that is natural and unforced.

I’m going to have to think about how to go about finding or setting up something like this.

Cider News: February 2013

February 22, 2013

February had a cider conference and Cider Summit in Chicago.

Other and Local:

2012 in Review

December 31, 2012

Each year, I keep slowing down a little and being less inspired to write on this blog, and yet each year, my readership climbs. I’m into my third year of blogging now. To date, I have posted 455 times counting this post, and I have gotten over 47,000 views, which is double what I had last year. I’m guessing that is about 70 views a day.

This year, I had a new busiest day on October 30, 2012, which wasn’t even a day I posted. They were mostly reading the homepage for that day, My Italian Apple Grinder,  and Apple Ripeness Test.  The previous one day record was set in 2011 regarding liquor sales laws here in in Washington.

The most read posts in 2012, not including the homepage, were:

  1. Pears in Alcohol
  2. Cold Crashing Explained
  3. My (pathetic) Apple Grinder that I retired after just a few grindings.
  4. New to the top 10list is Types of Cider Apples.
  5.  My (wonderful) Italian Apple Grinder that I will probably cry over when it breaks down on me.
  6. Also new to the top 10 list is a blog on Apple Brandy.
  7. My Eco-Lawn
  8. Making Wine with Whey
  9. New to the list, but from 2011, is a blog on Whipped Cream with Alcohol.
  10. Air is the Enemy
  11. (a close 11th place) Building an Apple Press

Here are the all-time top 10 most viewed posts I have written (this does not include homepage hits and scrolling through my blog though multiple posts):

  1. Pears in Alcohol
  2. Cold Crashing Explained  (up from #6 last year)
  3. My (pathetic) Apple Grinder  (up from #8)
  4. My (wonderful) Italian Apple Grinder  (up from #9)
  5. About the Candle Wine Project (down from #3)
  6. Making Wine with Whey (down one spot)
  7. Types of Cider Apples (new to the top 10 list)
  8. My Eco-Lawn (down one spot)
  9. Building an Apple Press (up one spot)
  10. Apple Brandy (new to the top 10 list)

Since Washington State now has liquor in grocery stores, my commentary on Initiatives 1100 & 1105 is no longer drawing readers. It went from #2 last year to #14 this year, and I don’t expect it to even be in the top 30 next year.  Also, new people reading about JK Scrumpy has slowed from #4 last year to #11 this year. Maybe with the surge of cider drinkers, everyone has had it now and don’t need my review so much anymore.

This fall, I slowed down on writing, but I think it was a good break, as this Christmas, I have had a few things to inspire me to write about in 2013. My personal life has not quite where I need it to be to actually get a cidery off of the ground despite the market being red hot. What I need to do is brush off my business plan and see what investors I can find. Admittedly, I’m not doing fruit wines so much. I dabble in it when I have them, but I’ve really swung my focus to cider, enough to ponder a name change.

Further reading: 2011 in Review

Cider News: December 2012

December 28, 2012

With the apple harvest pretty much over, the theme for December seems to be shifting end of year financial market conditions and to how breweries are starting to do cider, and how they are seeing investment returns on it.

February 15, 2012 News Digest

February 15, 2012

There have been some interesting news pieces that have come out the last few weeks, including:

February 2, 2012: The Gray Report Blog – ‘Obama considers huge shakeup in alcohol law, eliminating TTB.

The writer, W. Blake Gray, analyses what could happen if the TTB was dived up between the IRS and the FDA. Though the move is reported to be unlikely by Michael Kaiser of the TTB, such a move would require ingredient listing, calorie counts, and more accurate labeling of alcohol percentages. He expands on the process impact it would have on business, as the TTB denies things before hand, and the FDA fines afterwards, so security of a product hitting the market is in limbo.


February 2, 2012: Seattle Times, “Looks like liquor prices to go up, over fees from Initiative 1183.”

There is some speculation that distribution of liquor will become more expensive since the State of Washington can no longer provide that function since I-1183 passed.


February 2, 2012:, “Positive Contact: Dogfish Head, Deltron 3030 member collaborate on beer and cider hybrid.”

I don’t think this really needs an explanation, as it is Dogfish Head.


February 5, 2012: Los Angeles Times, “Beer Brewers revise playbooks to win back lost customers.”

Some market news regarding beer and beer advertising right before the Superbowl. It does say that hard cider sales grew 20% this last year.


February 6, 2012:, “MillerCoor’s Tenth and Blake acquires Crispin Cider Company.”

The article calls cider the fastest growing beer category, which MillerCoors wants a piece of by buying out Crispin. Crispin was reported to have grown 200% from 2008-2011, and is currently the number three cider producer in the US (which includes Fox Barrel Cider Company, purchased by Crispin in 2010). The article says that Crispin will run as an independent division of MillerCoors. Here is reaction from The Cidery regarding this news

Geek vs. Snob

January 23, 2012

We were out one evening at a pizza parlor with some friends and their friends, and one person in the party was the son of a winemaker. One of the women, who wanted to drink some wine, asked him which wine he recommended. None of them, he said. Period. He didn’t even offer up a suggested beer or cocktail, and this woman either had to drink nothing, or ignore his advice. What a snob.

And yet, my husband Burtle and I find ourselves in similar situations. Burtle wants to be a beer geek, but he says the line is sometimes blurry between that and being a snob. Both really know what they are talking about, and both can be picky. It just feels like being a geek is someone who says, “Oh man, I was really hoping for something better, but I’ll take what you have, happily.” A snob won’t make that compromise, or they will drink it unhappily.

I fight the battle with cider myself. There are a lot of times that I’m at a brew pub, and they only have one cider, and I think it is an inferior cider, but I still drink it. Though, admittedly, there are a few that are starting to creep into my view as not really drinkable, so I might skip it and drink nothing. I guess that is pushing me into being a snob. But there are other times where I’m with people and they ask my opinion on what cider to get, and I’ll encourage them to try those same ciders I don’t care for because I think they need to start developing their taste somewhere, and those ciders are easier to find. I can warn them that I don’t care for them, but maybe their taste is different, so they might like it. Maybe that pulls me back to geek level?