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Patrons of the Brewing Arts

Van Gogh’s post-impressionism was marked by bold emotion and swirling brush slashes. Cezanne communicated his vision with pieces of paint. Jackson Pollock splashed paint with robust liveliness, and Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel communicates the human condition both on earth and in the imagination. Few would debate that each was an artist in his own right. Each had a style easily recognized among those who became patrons of the arts.

The same is true for beer and for brewers. Each brewer is an artist in his own right; each beer style is easily recognized, particularly among those who are patrons of the brewing arts.

Craft beer has come of age. Since the repeal of Prohibition, beer made by artisans has been overshadowed by big beer. It wasn’t big beer’s fault. The American people grew into the idea of softer flavors, convenience foods, and “trusted” brands. They wanted a change from inconsistency, and it was not so bad to know what you were getting, even if what you were getting was little more than beer-flavored water.

To his credit, Jimmy Carter unintentionally changed that attitude when he legalized homebrewing in 1978. Homebrewers, anxious to try their hand at a new hobby, began to experience flavors they had never expected. There was that something special about their creations that resonated among them and their friends. Beer could be robust or pungent. Perhaps it was tart or fruity. Those who had traveled to Europe were immersed in the rich flavors of cask ales, Kölsch or Märzen. Their mantra became, “I want that in America.”

These days, with so many different styles to choose from, consumers may feel a little overwhelmed by the vast oasis available to them. They know what Bud-Miller-Coors-Corona-Heineken are, but are less sure of other styles. They need guidance if they are to become adept at serving beer in their homes, or ordering beer that will match their entrees at a fine-dining establishment.

Most can fake it with minimal understanding of the basics. India Pale Ale (IPA) stands out for its hoppy profile, usually with notes of pine resin, earth, grapefruit, or other citrus notes. Most know Dry Stout and its association with Guinness and St. Patty’s Day. Women seem to love those dark porters. Some may even know Hoegaarden or Blue Moon. But for many, their knowledge stops there.

It doesn’t have to. In some ways, expanding your knowledge of beer is a bit like making love. Beer enthusiasts can derive greater pleasure as their knowledge deepens. It may take a bit of risk, exploration of every style, and the possibility of failure; but a rise to crescendo is worth the effort.

The most forward-thinking restaurants, those who are Patrons of the Brewing Arts, require their wait-staff be trained as Certified Beer Servers through the Cicerone Certification Program. Their bartenders are certified as Cicerones or Beer SommALEiers, and in ideal cases, they have a Cicerone or Master Cicerone available during the dinner hour to serve as an advisor for beer and food harmonization. But many are still living in the Dark Ages. These bars don’t see the advantages: the robust craft beer sales, the higher overall checks, or the pride of their staff in being a part of the beer renaissance.

How close does your favorite beer bar come to being a Patron of the Brewing Arts? Check the list. If they fall short, voice your concern with the bar manager or owner. They may not like it at first, but you have a lot to gain when they step it up a notch.

Check List for Patrons of the Brewing Arts:

  • When asked, “What kind of beer do you have?” is the wait-staff trained to provide a list of craft beer first? Craft beer enthusiasts resent having to listen to their servers rattle-off a list of highly-advertised industrial lagers before they get to the good stuff. It’s like clicking a video link online, and being forced to watch the commercial first.
  • Are the craft beer taps in a prime position for visibility to those entering?
  • Are the beer lines thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis? Some states require them to be cleaned every week or two. Bar staff may go through the motions, but ignorance of proper cleaning leaves residue that comes through in the beer. Hint to staff: We can tell when they’re not really clean.
  • Is bottled beer accompanied by a glass?
  • Is glassware beer-clean? No frosted glasses, please!
  • Is beer served in glassware that is appropriate to the style?
  • If fruit is served with a beer style, is the purchaser informed and given the option to decline it?
  • Does the establishment have a significant beer list, either on a chalk-board or a beer-page? Is it constantly refreshed? Do they provide a full-listing, in a leather-bound portfolio?
  • Are members of the wait-staff qualified as Certified Beer Servers through the Cicerone Certification Program?
  • Is there a Cicerone or Master Cicerone on staff? Perhaps a Beer SommALEier?
  • Does the menu have beer style recommendations listed with each appetizer, salad, or entrée? How about with the desserts?
  • Does the Staff Cicerone present a complimentary taste of a featured beer of the day to those dining?
  • Are specialty bottled beers on visible display?
  • Does the establishment have regularly scheduled Beer Dinners? Beer for Women Nights? Craft Beer 101 Seminars? Craft Beer of the Week Specials?
  • Does the Executive Chef create cuisine a la biere?
  • Does the establishment have an aging cellar?
  • Bonus #1: Have members of the staff traveled for beer?
  • Bonus #2: Has the restaurant commissioned a brewer to design and bottle a beer for exclusive service in the establishment?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, you have discovered a Patron of the Brewing Arts, one deserving of loyalty and your hard-earned dollar. Spread the good word.


The right glass for the right beer
Spiegelau Beer Classics Beer Connoisseur Gift Set, Set of 4:

For super-high alcohol beers:
Artland Veritas Set/4 Cordial

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Content copyright © 2015 by Carolyn Smagalski. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Carolyn Smagalski. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Carolyn Smagalski for details.


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