The great thing about going back to school as adults is we get to choose the topics we study. It was with a lot of excitement that I recently attended a 2 day class about….. yep, you guessed it …… BEER!
This 2-day class was officially a study group to prepare for the Cicerone
examination. “Cicerone? What the hell is a Cicerone?” Basically, a Cicerone is a
certified beer expert. Everyone knows about wine sommeliers; they are experts in wine. But if you have a beer question, who you gonna call?
Beer is a very serious subject. Many people out there claim
to be experts on beer, but how can you be sure they really know what they are
talking about? Now you can, if they have the “Certified Cicerone”
For more info, http://www.cicerone.org/pages/why_cicerone.
Day one of the class was great. We started by going over the Master
Syllabus for the Cicerone Certification program. You can find it
Yes, this sucker is 19 pages long. Did I mention this test is no joke?
After reviewing the syllabus and going over some test-taking tips (sorry,
Ray) we discussed beers color, alcohol percentage, bitterness, carbonation
etc. The discussion then turned to off-flavors in beer. And yes, we
purposefully drank several samples of bad beer. We tasted samples with
flavors such as cardboard, butterscotch, creamed corn, green apple and
skunk. Trust me, it is called skunked for a reason!
Rest assured we did not attend this class just to learn about bad beer.
After a short break we started sampling good beers. Great beers, actually.
Attention all college professors: this is how class is supposed to be! We
sampled Lambics, Farmhouse Ales, Dark Lagers and English Ales. There was a
purpose to our beer drinking though. Think you can easily differentiate
between a Munich Dunkel, a Dark American Lager and a Schwarzbier? It ain’t
Here is the main takeaway. Even though everyone’s palate is different in their ability to detect certain flavors, (and yes, women can taste several times better than men) all of us are capable of training our palates to do a better job of picking up and differentiating flavors in beer. It’s like anything you want to be good at. Practice, practice, practice. Yep, drinking good beers and learning more about them really is part of my job. And I do
enjoy my job!
What kind of experiences have you had in sampling different beers? I’d love to hear from you.