Amateur cider championship in Monterey

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HIGHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) The judging for the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Cider Championship was at Big Fish Cider in Monterey Thursday.

In the tasting room, they studied, sniffed and tasted.

They are the judges who decide which is the best cider from four professional running cideries in Virginia and West Virginia. The entries? From traditional styles to something newer, like cider flavored with Paw Paw.

“I think we had a really broad range of entries here from sweet to dry, all kinds of different fruit," said judge Josh Bennett. "And all in all I’d say they did pretty well. There wasn’t anything I had to spit out.”

But what makes a winner?

“That’s hard to answer necessarily in one direct thing," said Will Hodges, another judge. "But I think finding balance and understanding what the producer is trying to do.”

“It’s about how well balanced it is, how drinkable it is, and that sort of thing,” Bennett said.

And as he seems to have it down, maybe he could teach anyone.

“So the purpose of the swirl is really to get it up on the glass," Bennett said, lightly swirling the cider in his glass. "And you could look at the legs and talk about a lot of other things about this, but the real point is that we’re going to smell it next.”

Anyway, the judges did eventually come to a conclusion, and the winners were chosen, giving the sort of hope to the contestants that host and organizer Kirk Billingsley wanted.

“They went through the same thing I did as far as making cider at home," Billingsley, the owner of Big Fish Cidery, said. "And so we’ve got something we can give to the people that are interested in making cider at home just like we did.”

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