Most of us are familiar with the idea of a sommelier from the world of wine, but what about a Beer Sommelier?
A Beer Sommelier is someone with a recognised expertise who can help choose a beer to fit with a particular occasion or food pairing. A Beer Sommelier can guide you through tasting a beer, assessing its flavour and quality, and explain to you why it tastes the way it does. Beer Sommeliers are familiar with many different types of beers. But even working with a beer he or she don’t know, a Beer Sommelier has the skills to understand its characteristics and suggest suitable food pairings.
Although the term sommelier has long been associated with wine, it would have been normal in the past for sommeliers to also know something about beer. This was possible simply because there was not a vast amount to know on the subject.
Since then the world has seen huge growth in the number and variety of good quality beers available. Did you know, for instance, that there are over 150 different styles of beer? That’s just the different types of beer, but of course for each one there will be many individual examples of beers belonging to that style.
These days specialised beer knowledge is needed to meet the public’s increasing interest in drinking beer to accompany a fine meal instead of wine.
The amount of knowledge needed to become an accredited Beer Sommelier goes above and beyond your average appreciation of beer. Considering that the beer world is every bit as complex and varied as wine, there’s a lot to learn.
Beer is a fragile product. Mishandling it in certain ways can ruin it instantly. People in the beer business — from the brewery all the way to the waiter or waitress — need to understand the complexity of beer.
Beer Sommelier training covers all aspects of beer. Naturally this includes a detailed knowledge of beer styles, tasting techniques, and food pairings. But a Beer Sommelier must also know about beer’s ingredients and the brewing process, proper storage and serving, appropriate types of glassware, and the history of beer. It may even include an understanding of draught and tap systems, and cellaring casks and kegs.
To attain my title I had to identify 20 beers, tasting blind. I had to rank them by strength and by bitterness. I had to supply ideal food pairings for each one and explain how each dish would work with the beer. I had to identify different beer faults by smell and taste alone, and understand why they arise. You can’t do all that without cultivating a deep knowledge of beer styles and brewing.
Beer Sommelier training in the UK is carried out by the Beer and Cider Academy, which is part of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).
The IBD is the world’s leading professional body for people working in brewing and distilling. As an international professional and educational body the IBD promotes “The advancement of the education and professional development in the science and technology of brewing, distilling, and related industries.”
Their Beer Sommelier accreditation programme began in 2011. To be accredited you must first complete and pass three taught courses: the Foundation Course, the Advanced Course, and the How to Judge Beer Course.
After that you must compile a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate how you know what you know.
The final stage in the Beer Sommelier accreditation process is a 90-minute oral exam during which you will be thoroughly tested on your beer tasting abilities, beer knowledge, and beer and food pairing expertise.
You can learn more about beer sommelier training at www.beerandcideracademy.org/beer-courses.
Beer Sommeliers love beer, and we want you to love it too.
We spend a lot of our days sharing our knowledge and our enthusiasm for beer. We believe beer should be taken seriously, and enjoyed responsibly, not thoughtlessly guzzled merely in order to get drunk.
A large part of being a Beer Sommelier is promoting beer as a drink to be paired with good food, because we know that the right match can lift both drink and dish to become greater than the sum of their parts.
I put these ideas into practice by offering services to my clients that highlight beer and its ingredients, and demonstrate why it is such a delicious and versatile drink.