Ciderology by Gabe Cook
Octopus Publishing Group (September 2018)
Reviewed by Lorna Colwill

From history and heritage to the craft cider revolution, Gabe Cook, aka ‘The Ciderologist’, shares his passion for all things cider. 

Gabe Cook’s new hardback book Ciderology is a highly informative, beautifully illustrated celebration of cider.

Spanning 11 chapters, Cook grapples with Roman history, Victorian traditions and that slippery modern phrase so much contended, ‘craft cider’. His book even creates new words dedicated to the drink in question, principally the term ‘Ciderology’ which Cook defines as ‘that which is practiced by the Ciderologist’ (a bit shaky), or ‘the study, teaching and championing of cider’ (that sounds more like it). Whilst Cook champions cider from his hometown in Gloucestershire, lovingly referred to as ‘The Shire’, he also explores cider on a global scale, often drawing upon his own experience living and working in New Zealand.

In the opening chapter, ‘The State of Cider’, Cook tracks the ‘cider renaissance’ through its boom years between 2006-2009, where UK volume grew by 50 percent. This is much owing to the ‘Magner’s effect’, whereby a mass market for cider-drinkers was forged and growing interest could trickle down into small cider producers. In ‘The Journey of Cider’, Cook tracks the ‘age of orchards’ back to Homer’s Odyssey, proving once again that Greeks and Romans are responsible for Good Things. The historical ‘journey’ even reveals that ‘cider was the craft beer of the seventeenth century!’, which is perhaps unsurprising when considering the levels of facial hair among young men at the time.

At the core of the book – Cook’s apple puns really are infectious – is the ‘Art and Science of Cider Making’. Cook draws upon a lifetime of personal experience to give an informed guide to the cider-making process, from harvesting to fermentation, maturation and eventually, packaging and serving (with many more steps in between), but his writing is not alienating for the uninformed reader. Paired with rich photography and simple illustrations, even the most ignorant reader could at least appreciate that there really is an art to cider making. For more learned readers, the page ‘When Cider Goes Bad’ might well come in handy.

The latter half of the book celebrates cider from across the globe and even gives perry its own micro-homage. The curious traditions surrounding cider are most interestingly told in the chapter ‘Wassail!’, which pays tribute to one of the last remaining Anglo-Saxon British traditions still upheld in modern times. Key to the cider-making calendar, the event is celebrated on Pagan New Year’s Eve and its idiosyncrasies involve a butler, a shotgun and a communal bowl of cider…

Bookended with a glossary, index and even a mini cider cookbook, Ciderology sufficiently meets its goal to study, teach and champion all aspects of cider. Cook’s well-researched book meets the curiosities of cider novices and aficionados alike.

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