“Beer is the drink of those who think, and feel no fear or fetter; who do not drink to senseless sink, but drink to think the better.”
When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m usually talking about, thinking about, and/or drinking beer.(You can find me on Untappd here.) In addition to being a beer enthusiast, I’m also a homebrewer, nationally-ranked beer judge, and Certified Cicerone®.
I started brewing with my friend Robert in Virginia in the summer of 2011 with a 1-gallon all-grain kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop (purchased at Williams-Sonoma). About 18 months after that we scaled up to 5 gallon batches and started crafting our own recipes (thanks to advice from brewing giants like Ray Daniels, Stan Hieronymus, John Palmer, Charlie Papazian, and Gordon Strong).
As a way of developing my palate and the quality of the beer I brew, I’ve become active in the Beer Judge Certification Program, which is an organization designed to encourage appreciation of beer and recognize beer evaluation skills. They do this by sponsoring homebrew competitions and by administering a series of tasting and written examinations to would-be judges. Scores on these exams and experience judging in beer competitions determine one’s rank as a beer judge. The ranks start at Apprentice, and run up through Recognized, Certified, National, Master, and various levels of Grand Master.
In May 2014 I passed the tasting exam to become a Recognized judge, and then quickly became Certified after the experience of judging in a few competitions. Then after passing a written exam (on beer styles, ingredients, processes, and history) and helping to organize a couple of homebrew competitions, I ranked up to National in summer 2016. As a National judge, I now help grade tasting exams for aspiring BJCP judges.
The Cicerone® Certification Program “has become the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service.” The Cicerone® designation in the beer world is something like the sommelier designation in the wine world.
I’m not in beer sales or service, but in August of 2016 I decided to sit for the Certified Cicerone® exam, which was a 5-hour written, tasting, and hands-on exam, covering everything from the history and variety of beer styles and ingredients, to brewing techniques, to detecting off-flavors, to serving beer properly, to pairing beer with food. It was intense, but I passed.