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:
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