There have been many crying to try to bring beer to its place on the dinner table alongside wine yet sometimes it feels the aficionados aren’t interested in that. I recently wrote an article about the Cicerone program, the beer industry equivalent to the Sommelier and surprisingly the feedback was very low. You can read the original article here.
If beer ever expects to be held on par with wine, the industry needs to change its attitude a bit. I know beer dinners are highly popular and more and more seem to be popping up but it still feels like we have a long ways to come. The one response I had to my article regarding the Cicerone program and what I feel it needs to do was from someone who felt that my idea belittled their 9 yrs of experience in the industry. I am not trying to belittle anyone’s experience in the industry but there are so many self-proclaimed “experts” that just aren’t all that great. Now I have spoken to this person many times (who will remain anonymous) and they happen to be one of those that truly does know their stuff. Personally, I feel they would pass the Cicerone program with ease.
However, a valid point was made, if there is to be a Certified Beer Store/Bar category and employees would have to get certified to some level who will pay for it. Most owners will not be to keen on the idea of spending money to train employees who may just be working through college or PT and to them its not a career. Also, let’s be honest since most bartenders are off the books, its not like they could withhold a final check or something if an employee was to leave shortly after completing certification and not staying for at least six months to a year (common practice in corporations if the company pays for certifications or education).
So, I ask what is the answer? I am still unsure but I feel we need to change our approach and be more serious about beer and its place besides wine on the dinner table at fine establishments because beer certainly deserves to be there. However, we need people who are not “self proclaimed” experts, we need people that truly are experts through a recognized certification program to help push the movement. Once again I look at the Cicerone Program because I see so much potential within it.
For example, its no surprise to people that I love beer and enjoy a great brew but I am NO expert. When I work at the store and people ask me for recommendations of any type (pairing, or I generally like X what else would I like) I give them my opinion but try to make sure I don’t come off as an expert and let them know its from personal experience and that of friends that I trust and what they have liked. Heck, I have many regulars that get involved in these discussions with other customers and I love it. Now imagine how this interaction would improve if myself or others at the store were actually properly trained experts.
The bottom line is this, I want beer to be considered wines equal and we have to do some work to get there as a community and as a collective. I am sure every brewery has a training program of some sort about beer for its staff but are they all the same, are they all created equal? I doubt it and that is should be addressed. Here are the next few steps I feel the industry needs to take:
- Step 1:
- A: A universal training program for all brewery employees about beer, styles, aging and serving.
- B: Increasing the number of bartenders and servers properly trained in how to serve beer properly as outlined by the Cicerone program, to ensure the utmost enjoyment.
- Step 2: Increase the number of Certified Cicerones at finer dining establishments to help them improve their beer offerings and pairings.
- Step 3: Persuade the public through an onslaught of beer vs wine dinners that beer is just as, if not more versatile than wine.
Now, that is not a definitive process but just a top line view of what I feel needs to be done to help increase the incredible growth that craft beer has been seeing year over year.
And that’s … From My Mellin!