The serious business of becoming a beer expert
Tuesday 21 Jan 2014 11:27 a.m.
Beer is big business in the United States. Next month, Anheuser-Busch will spend about US$28 million on Super Bowl commercials for its top-selling brews.
Despite this, beer drinkers don't always get the same level of attention as wine drinkers.
While a wine expert is known as a sommelier, a beer expert has generally been considered a drunk. But Ray Daniels is hoping to change that.
"Americans used to treat beer like a can of soup," he says. "You know, you buy it. You put it in the in the cabinet. You leave it there for months or years on end and you take it out, open it, warm it up, it's gonna be just as good as it was."
As the author of four books on beer, Mr Daniels felt obligated to set some standards. He trains people to become certified beer experts – whom he calls cicerones – so they can identify the aroma, look and taste of a beer.
There's an initial test on-line, which is followed up by a second in-person exam that involves multiple choices and tastings.
Lorna Juett is among the hopefuls.
"I'm really hoping I pass today," she says. "But it's a very serious examination. They're not messin' around."
Mr Daniels created the program six years ago. Graduates must be able to teach brewers, bartenders and beer distributors – as well as customers – about beer styles, flavours and longevity.
"I've been a beer enthusiast my entire adult life," he says. "I was always amazed at how many places would have 25 beers on tap [and] didn't know anything about them."
Jerry's Bar in Chicago has 48 craft beers on tap and each staff member is required to seek at least the Certified Beer Server status – the basica qualification Mr Daniels offers.
Nick Bondi is the bar manager.
"We need to have people that can say 'Okay, what do you normally like to drink?' And if somebody says 'I like to drink Stella', then we can guide them in the right direction to a beer that has similar qualities," he says.