Brews & Eats
It's time to go back to beer school: Our Beer columnist celebrates the rise of the experts

By Brewery Bird

With the welcome resurgence of cask beer over the past three decades and the number of micro-breweries continuing to rise past a level that was once thought impossible; beer has never tasted so good. Consequently, this has led to many drinkers’ understanding of beer moving beyond just the basic observations of colour, aroma and flavour - the term ‘everyone’s an expert’ has never seemed more apt. As brewers we’ve happily engaged a new breed of consumer who continually chase new beers, attend Meet The Brewer events and who are super-keen to trump their drinking buddies with brewing terminology, or take to social media, brandishing their form of beer-bashing with a zeal that would put the average street preacher to shame.  Happily, there are even qualifications which self-proclaimed beer-bores can undertake (yours truly included), which range from basic beer tasting right up to Beer Sommelier (equivalent to Wine Sommelier qualification (There are currently only 166 Beer Somms from 17 different countries, many of whom are making a living from their training and knowledge). And this training isn’t just for people in the brewing or hospitality trade; anyone with an interest in and passion for beer can sign up to undertake a variety of different courses and qualifications. So if you always wanted to learn more about beer but didn’t know where to start…… The Beer Academy is a London-based beer ‘school’ supported by the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, that was founded by a small group of beer enthusiasts in 2003 to help people understand, appreciate and enjoy beer sensibly. Over 4,000 people have attended Beer Academy courses held across the country which range from How to Judge Beer, to Food & Beer Pairing to Advanced and finally Beer Sommelier. Aside from the latter, the courses are one day and range from £130 - £150 Check out their courses here: Our friends across the pond also have a similar qualification - the Cicerone Certification Program (Cicerone meaning to guide, mentor or tutor, of Italian origin), started in 2006 by Ray Daniels, an esteemed home-brewing lecturer who created the Cicerone qualification as a result of being served a very badly kept pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale; having been advised by the server that “that’s how the beer always looks and tastes”. That old adage ‘if you want something done properly never sounded more apt to Ray and 11 years later more than 91,000 hospitality professionals worldwide have undertaken Level 1 of the web-based Cicerone qualification. There are other places where similar courses are available – check out your local breweries as a number have started to offer a variety of courses ranging from Identifying Off Flavours in Beer to full on 3 day courses in the finer aspects of brewing.