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Higher education and higher beer education

Monday I wrote about the new Cicerone Certification Program designed to better educate people selling and serving beer.

But what about beer drinkers? Mostly notably all those novice beer drinkers headed off for a higher education that often includes a fair amount of learning about of beer? (OK, I’ll not be totally naive and think drinking starts with college, but I like the analogy.)

Don Russell (Joe Sixpack) today writes about the Choose Responsibility started by Dr. John M. McCardell Jr., former at Middlebury College in Vermont. Beyond the fact that he advocates lowering the drinking age – ain’t gonna happen even though he is right – McCardell has another fine idea. An alcohol learner’s permit.

“Right now,” McCardell told Russell, “they receive no education in alcohol other than what their friends give them. It’s obvious that’s not working.”

Russell goes on to suggest a “standardized drinking test” and offers questions. They are amusing, but Russell also has some sound advice. Give it a read.

8 Responses to Higher education and higher beer education

  1. SteveH September 14, 2007 at 7:24 am #

    8. Calculate your blood-alcohol content after consuming three beers in two hours.

    3 Pilsner Urquells, or 3 Aventinus?

    What – is the land speed of a swallow?! 🙂

  2. Jay September 14, 2007 at 8:06 am #

    At what level does one become “clear” in the Cicerontology Certification Program?

    I’d rather take a standardized drinking test. Sounds less silly.

  3. Stephen Beaumont September 14, 2007 at 8:18 am #

    Coincidentally, The Globe and Mail newspaper this morning ran an unrelated editorial entitled “Learning to Drink.” (It’s also online, but unfortunately only to subscribers.) In it, the editorial board endorses parents taking the time to educate their children on alcohol and drinking, citing a recent Canadian study which found that “most parents of older youth accept that alcohol is a part of their teenager’s existence.”

    Particularly laudable, in my view, is their conclusion:

    “Whatever the age, the danger is not in drinking a couple of beers, glasses of wine or spirits; it is the binge drinking all too common among both youth and adults, causing them to do damage to themselves and to others.

    “Moving us away from that excess culture will take time, but it starts with parents who are prepared to face up to reality.”

    Hmmm, I wonder if a major newspaper in the U.S. would have the guts to draw that conclusion?

  4. Stan Hieronymus September 14, 2007 at 8:41 am #

    Jay – This is a serious suggestion.

    I think it would be great if the next edition of the Beer Guppy’s Guide [to those who haven’t heard of this book it is on my list to review] listed if a place had a certified Cicerone.

    Even how many and what levels.

  5. Jay September 14, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    I hear you Stan. I’m half with you, though. How about -just- certify a “Cicerone?” The “levels” of certification are what bug me.

    The program appears to be on the right track (in terms of educating servers, sellers …). But isn’t it undermining itself with the minutiae?

    These types of academic acheivement levels were an issue during the doomed-Beer Sommelier Certification Program, which I was lucky enough to have been on the planning committee back in 2001-ish. They are milestones to the seller/server, but they arbitrary to the consumer (the reason servers are taking the program in the first place, right?).

    I think the bestowing of rather contrived sub-titles, or certification levels, to program participants is a step in the wrong direction. In fact, it’s limiting. Why not make this an on-going program, where participants test and re-test to maintain their status as a Cicerone?

    I’m also wary of seeing a snob factor enter the beer world from the serving side. I’m not saying this would happen, or that the program will create snobbery (I’m not sure), just that it may open a door for servers to distinguish themselves as novice-experts, intermediate-experts or expert-experts.

    My argument is a bit absurd, but possible. Will Cicerones be good for the consumer in the end? I’ll quietly wait and see. I’d love to witness how a business changes when its servers go from server-to-Cicerone status.

    And yes, I’d gladly list a Cicerone in the next Beer Guppy, sans his/her levels.

  6. Stan Hieronymus September 14, 2007 at 12:51 pm #

    Jay – This is probably a discussion to have with Ray.

    He’ll welcome the input – and I think the goal is for the site to soon have a discussion board.

    When that happens let’s continue this discussion there.

  7. Stonch September 17, 2007 at 2:51 am #

    I distrust these accreditation schemes. Apprecation of beer is something that comes instinctively, it’s part of the fabric of society after all.

  8. Stan Hieronymus September 17, 2007 at 7:04 am #

    Stonch – Much of the program focuses on technical aspects, such as clean lines, checking beer for freshness, etc.

    I think there are parallels to the Cask Marque program. Is that a good program?

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