A beer sommelier is a specialist trained in the service and preparation of beer. Or, in other words, a dream job for many beer enthusiasts.
It’s not all fun and games though, according to the Beer Academy who run the Accredited Sommelier Scheme successful candidates require a “significant depth of knowledge of beer styles.”
This expertise needs to extend to beer and food pairings and sommeliers need good “communication skills… and passion to inspire people to discover, respect and enjoy our national beverage.”
Quite a task, but the actual role of a beer sommelier was recently made a little clearer to the general public by one of the first women in the UK to take up the prestigious post- Annabel Smith.
According to a recent interview Smith gave to the Guardian, she is regularly appointed by brewers, pub companies and corporates to create beer and food events as well as providing tutoring and beer tasting sessions.
Smith does all this whilst running Dea Latis, a company that aims to “promote the beauty of beer to women.”
This isn’t quite the uphill task it seems, 16% of all beer purchases in the UK are made by women over the age of 25.
It’s Smith’s belief that you can find a beer to suit everyone’s taste and given the diversity now available it stands to reason that the industry needs sommeliers capable of educating the public.
The need for more authority within beer and the poor quality of much of what was being offered prompted Chicago brewer Ray Daniels to start the Cicerone Certification Program.
Within the program there are three levels. Starting with an online exam for certification as a Beer Server onto a Certified Cicerone which requires an in-person test (including tasting.) The final step is to become a Master Cicerone, which involves an in-person exam lasting two days.
According to npr.com this last exam focuses on five components: keeping and serving beer; beer styles; flavor and tasting; brewing process and ingredients; and beer and food pairing.
Only seven people have passed to Master Cicerone level and whilst this may seem overly harsh, Daniels suggests that while enjoying a beer is a simple pleasure, understanding the beer is incredibly complex due to the fragile nature of the product:
“It can be ruined instantly by certain types of handling. So the people in the beer business — from the brewery all the way to the waiter or waitress — need to understand the complexity of beer.”
You might put this down to snobbery, but the campaign for better beer in bars, pubs and restaurants is well underway and Cicerones and Sommeliers are leading the charge to ensure quality.