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Archive | March, 2006

Oops, wrong glass

Eric Asimov of the New York Times writes occasionally about beer, though mostly about wine. In his new wine blog he drops in at Cafe D’Alsace, the NYC spot touting its beer sommelier. His description indicates that this could just be a sommelier (remember, wine sommelier is redundant) well versed in beer.

In any event, a nice discussion of beer and food – and a well made point:

I might quibble a little with the beer selection. Except for two ales from Canada, all the brews are European. I understand the logic, to match the Alsace cuisine with beers from the neighborhood, but at a time when so many good American beers are being made, many in styles that would go with the food, it seems a shame not to offer even a few.

And then there was the matter of the Reissdorf Kolsch ordered as an aperitif. It was offered in half-liter glasses, totally the wrong choice – and this at a place promoting the importance of the proper glass.

A beer sommelier?

This New York Post features Aviram Turgeman, New York’s first beer sommelier.

Cheers to Cafe D’Alsace for showcasing beer as much as wine. “I love beer, and we had a lot of great beers at L’Express (the bistro on Park Avenue South he also owns), but no one knew about them,” said owner Simon Oren.

The restaurant does all the right things: a well-resented menu, good glassware, and Turgeman suggests beer and food pairings. This has to be a step in the right direction for beer.

But can you really have a beer sommelier? Dictionary.com defines sommelier as “A restaurant employee who orders and maintains the wines sold in the restaurant and usually has extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings.” That would make wine sommelier redundant and beer sommelier meaningless.

But enough of semantics. While you might be able to just call yourself a beer sommelier, nor there is no legal requirement in the U.S. to be certified as a wine sommelier, if you want to put M.S. (Master Sommelier) after your name that’s an entirely different matter.

The Court of Master Sommeliers requires candidates pass three levels of examinations. The first level is the Introductory Sommelier Course. Next is the Advance Course. SF Sommelier Consulting provides this description of the Advanced Course exam:

The first section is theory. It is an 82 question test with 20 multiple choice and 62 short answer questions. One hour is allowed for completion.

The second section is blind tasting. The candidate enters a room with a table with six glasses of wine on it and two Master Sommeliers sitting on the opposite side of the table. They listen as you swirl, sniff, taste and talk about each wine. You have 25 minutes total to identify all six. These wines can be from anywhere in the world, but they stick to classic examples. Points are given for your analysis and deductive reasoning as well as your identification of the wines.

The final section is the hardest of all. Restaurant service somehow seems harder when it is in a test environment. There are service stations where the Master Sommeliers judge your skills at opening still and sparkling wines, decanting, cigar service, freehand pouring of spirits, wine and food pairing, proof reading of wine lists, setting tables for a variety of menus, conversing with the guests and complaint resolution. While this is going on they also throw questions at you to see how you react. A passing score of 60% is required on all three sections. Approximately 25% of candidates pass this exam.

Pass that an you qualify for the Master Dipolma exam, which is even tougher. Then you can put M.S. after your name.

For the record, there are 74 professionals who hold the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of the North American Master Sommeliers, 61 are men and 13 are women. There are a total of 120 Master Sommeliers worldwide.

But only one (so far) beer sommelier in New York.

Beneficial inefficiency

Good Grape – you guessed it, a blog aimed a wine drinkers – credits Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery with creating the economic theory of “Beneficial Inefficiency.”

The author is moved to ask this question:

Isn’t a really relevant question here, maybe the wineries have it all wrong? Maybe they don’t need to grow bigger, maybe they won’t be able to sustain a market of new customers buying direct in the Midwest, maybe what they should do is create less product and market it better.

Now substitute the word “breweries” for “wineries” and read it again.

I’m not supporting the concept of aritificial shortages, but perhaps it is better for all of us if breweries have the option of producing less and still making money – because that allows them to focus on quality.

Beer as green as they come

Today is the day everybody – thank goodness, not everybody, but a lot of body – drinks or at least talks about green beer.

Kudos to Wired magazine for writing about the environmentally friendly, if not truly green, beers of Brooklyn Brewery and New Belgium Brewing.

Brooklyn recently followed the lead of New Belgium in committing to wind power to provide 100% of the brewery’s energy needs. “It’s the right thing to do, and not too many years down the road it will be a common choice,” said Brooklyn co-founder Steve Hindy.

New Belgium gets 70 percent of its power from wind-powered turbines, producing the rest with an innovative in-house system.

New Belgium puts its waste water inside closed pools filled with anaerobic bacteria. The microbes feed on the water, rich in nutrients from the brewing process, and produce methane gas, which is then pumped back to the factory where it becomes electrical and thermal energy.

CEO Kim Jordan indicates that New Belgium doesn’t plan to stop at 30%, although the system cost $5 million.

“It’s a gratifying way to use money, to try and push the envelope and the practice of alternative energy,” she said. “It’s our goal to completely close that loop, so all our energy use comes from our own waste stream.”

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