Books–what good are they, anyway?
The first port of call when learning about cider is to start finding and sampling it. From there, well, I’d like to think the next step is checking your favorite cider blog for more info. But…what then? Turns out, the old-fashioned book still has its uses.
Below are some books that will help with that deep-dive into cider-making, orcharding, and the business/startup side of cider that you’ve been putting off too long, or with that increased breadth of knowledge you’ve been looking for but only getting in bits and pieces.
Note that the AbeBooks and Amazon links below are my affiliate links–if you purchase through these links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea. A very scientifically-minded cider-making guide by Andrew Lea, a food biochemist who has encyclopedic knowledge of apples and cider, and who offers significant amounts of cider information on his website, cider.org.uk, as well as actively participating in The Cider Workshop (a Google Group), where you’ll find him responding to numerous questions. Amazon link.
Cider: Making, Using, and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider, by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols. If you’ve read my tutorials, you’re already sick of hearing about this book, because I mention it so often. And for good reason–it’s the cider book I cut my teeth on, and it provides a good balance of background and historical information with the cider-making information. Not really a deep-dive process book, but a great introduction and enough to get started with. Amazon link.
Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, by Ben Watson. Ben Watson is a food writer and a key figure in the Slow Food movement. An extensive review can be found here on Ciderguide. Amazon link.
The New Cider-Maker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers, by Claude Jolicoeur. Claude is an engineer and includes do-it-yourself projects as well as cider-making process. Also an active contributor to The Cider Workshop. Amazon link.
Apples to Cider: How to Make Cider at Home, by April White. The cidermaking aspects of this book are similar to those you can find in the others, but the unique aspect is that the author spent time at Farnum Hill Cider and includes insights from the folks at Farnum Hill–as well as some good photographs–alongside the basic cidermaking information. Amazon link.
The Complete Guide To Making Mead, by Steve Piatz. A comprehensive mead-making guide, with a few topics not in The Compleat Mead Maker, such as Pearson’s Square calculations and blending.
Fermented Beverage Production, edited by Andrew G. H. Lea and John R Piggott. Yes, that Andrew Lea. A beefy reference guide to fermentation. For your deep dive into the technology and science side of things. Amazon link.
World’s Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw. An epic tome which surveys the major cider styles and regions of the world. Covers 500 unique cider examples, complete with tasting notes and outstanding photography by Bill Bradshaw of iamcider.. Quite the ambitious project…I admire the, uh, ‘sacrifice’ it took to sample all of these ciders, and I’m now the proud owner of an autographed copy as Bradshaw was in attendance at Cidercon 2016. Amazon link.
The Good Cider Guide, by Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). CAMRA’s effort to educate the public on ‘real’ cider, profiling more traditional production of cider and perry in the face of all the ‘modern’, fizzy, thin ciders that flooded the UK market. While they tackle a real problem here–loss of public knowledge of cider-making traditions and a big decline in quality of commercial cider–their definitions are stricter than many cider enthusiasts, myself included, are comfortable with. E.g., no ‘real’ cider is force-carbonated or pasteurized… Amazon link.
Cider Made Simple, by Jeff Alworth. A cider primer with an emphasis on cider regions–England, Normandy, Northern Spain, and Quebec–as well as discussion of the American cider renaissance and the different cidermaking approaches (Traditionalist, Modernist, and Experimentalist) therein. Amazon link.
Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy, by Charles Neal. Calvados is apple brandy, which starts out as fermented cider before being distilled. Charles Neal, who has traveled and written extensively about Armanac, documents the cider and pear-growing history as well as the current producers of cider and Calvados in exceptional detail. An added bonus here for cider apple growers is descriptions of various Norman varieties seldom seen or known about in the states, as well as detail about fermentation and distillation process. Visit Charles at Charles Neal Selections, and be sure to watch his videos, including one about Calvados. I can’t say enough positive things about Charles’ attention to detail, so I’ll stop with this: buy and read his Calvados book–you’ll be glad you did. Amazon link.
Cider Cocktails — Another Bite Of The Apple, by Darlene Hayes. Primarily a book of cocktail recipes featuring cider (my favorite variation is a simple Stone Fence with semi-sweet cider and gin), it also includes their history and a section of cider-containing food recipes.
Apple: A Global History, by Erika Janik. An excellent, concise history of the apple, from its ancient origins in the Tian Shan mountains to its representation in myths, its spread around the world, and the impact of modern agriculture, globalization, and grocery store systems on its cultivation. Part of the Edible Series, each dedicated to a specific type of food with a similar historical and cultural emphasis. If the apple book is any indicator, this is a worthwhile series to explore. Amazon link.
The New Book of Apples: A Definitive Guide to Apples, Including over 2,000 Varieties, by Joan Morgan and Allison Richards. I think the title pretty much says it all on this one, which is another in my queue. Amazon link.
Apples of North America: 192 Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks, by Tom Buford. Details American Heirloom varieties and delves into orchard management. Eric West of Ciderguide has a great feature on Tom here. Amazon link.
Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders, by Rowan Jacobsen. The next apple book on my list–detailed descriptions and photos of 120 apple varieties across the spectrum, including table fruit and cider fruit. Amazon link.
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan. A fascinating account of the reciprocal relationship between human desires and the plants that interact with them. Includes a large section on The Apple, to include its co-evolution with humanity and the legacy of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) in the U.S. Amazon link. Audible Link.
Pruning Simplified, by Lewis Hill. A bit dated, except that trees still grow today the way they did in 1986, so it’s still quite useful. Straightforward, how-to information on pruning and training trees; not exclusive to fruit trees–has sections on nut trees, shade trees, shrubs, vines, etc, as well–but contains a lot of information on fruit tree pruning. Amazon link.
The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist, by Michael Phillips. An organic apple-growing guide with a lot of compare/contrast around methods of pest management. A good book to read if you’re on the fence about traditional/preventative spraying vs. Integrated Pest Management vs. Organic, or some combination thereof. Detailed descriptions of apple-specific pests, how to recognize their presence, treatment options, and, most importantly, preventing pests by growing stronger, healthier trees to begin with. My current go-to apple orcharding reference. Amazon link.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Winery, by Thomas Pellechia. Not entirely cider-related, but provides some good insight into the various types of wineries, the very different challenges and timing issues between the orcharding and winemaking sides of the business, and the different capital requirements of each. Amazon link.
Starting Your Own Microbrewery, Distillery, or Cidery, by Corie Brown. A book by Entrepreneur Magazine, which covers various business considerations around opening a craft beverage business. Also includes various case studies from the microbrewery, craft distillery, and cidery segments. Amazon link.
The Brewer’s Association Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery, by Dick Cantwell. Not specific to cider and mead, but the business topics–business plans, financing, distribution, packaging, etc–are relevant. Amazon link.
Craft Beverage Business Management, by Madeleine Pullman and John Harris. A comprehensive handling of the various topics to consider when startup up, then managing, a craft beverage business. An outgrowth of, and a textbook used by, Portland State University’s Business of Craft Brewing certificate program (am online, non-credit professional education program focused on craft beer but overlapping with the cider, mead, and spirits categories).
Beer School: Bottling Success At The Brooklyn Brewery, by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. The story of Brooklyn Brewery, which in addition to producing its core beers has at times operated a distribution company, sold that distribution company, and dabbled in the dot com craze, all the while raising funds multiple times from investors. They’ve made mistakes and learned lessons along the way, and they are not shy about sharing these with you. Not cider-specific, but the experiences revealed here are very valuable to anyone considering starting a capital-intensive business. Amazon link. Audible Link.
Brewing Up A Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship From the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, by Sam Calagione. Quite the bootstrapping adventure story from the founder of Dogfish Head–lots of lessons learned and challenges encountered to get you thinking about your own startup dreams and the sorts of things that could happen along the way. Amazon link. Audible Link.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work And What To Do About It, by Michael Gerber. A level-headed discussion around entrepreneurship and small business, full of practical advice and expertise cultivated from years of the author’s experiencing helping small business owners. A great sanity-checking tool to cross-check your entrepreneurial ideas against to gain realistic perspective about what you really need to spend your time doing as a business owner. Amazon link. Audible Link.
Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over A Beer Or Two, by Jim Koch. The story of the early days and growth of Samuel Adams by its founder. Koch organizes his experience around specific concepts and takes care to try to make things relevant and useful to the reader, rather than just being a memoir. Audible Link.
Off-Centered Leadership: The Dogfish Head Guide to Motivation, Collaboration and Smart Growth, by Sam Calagione. More here from the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery — this one is less history/memoir-oriented than Brewing Up A Business and more focused on how the organization works and what ideas and lessons you can take away from that. Audible Link.
Lastly, if cidery/meadery startup topics interest you, visit Ciderschool’s Cidery Startup page and sign up for the email list if you haven’t already.
Cidercraft Magazine. Cider reviews, in-depth features, interviews, and more focused on all things hard cider.
Cider Culture. A PA-based online cider magazine whose coverage and content is relevant nationwide.
Good Fruit Grower. All things fruit growing with a professional, large-scale emphasis. Essential for those of you with commercial-scale aspirations or who are interested in the overall industry. Eye-opening in terms of the scale and mechanization that is so common (and often necessary) among today’s fruit growers. Also covers business and university research topics related to fruit growing.
NAFEX / Pomona Magazine. The North American Fruit Explorers organization and their accompanying quarterly (three online, one print) magazine. They emphasize the discovery, cultivation, and preservation of unique fruit varieties.
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