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Assorted beer links (including Xmas Photo Contest Rules)

Russian River Damnation at the Grand Canyon

– Alan McLeod has posted the rules for Xmas Photo Contest 2012 at A Good Beer Blog, always one of the highlights of the holiday season. He would like more photos of beer and snow, more of beer and babies. The contest begins Friday and runs through Dec. 7. (The photo at the top was taken several years ago at the Grand Canyon, and I think I’ve posted it here before, but I wanted something with beer and snow . . .)

He’s proud to call himself a Cicerone. A what? When Ray Daniels got that MBA from Harvard he must have sensed he was destined to end up in the Wall Street Journal.

“Katechismus des Praktischen Brauwesens,” 1880. Fig. 193, Handpichmaschine. Courtesy of Evan Rail.

New brewing qualification launched for independent brewers (UK story).

Great Divide adds two new seasonals, dumps Wild Raspberry Ale. There was once a time, hard to believe, that the Great Divide beer you spotted most often outside of Colorado was Wild Raspberry Ale.

Beer sommelier redux

Salt sommelier? Water sommelier?

These job descriptions make beer sommelier seem like less of a stretch, don’t you think?

The Los Angeles Times has a story about how the food business is booming, “and with it, there’s a boom in jobs you’ve never heard of.”

Consider the specialty Christina Perozzi has carved out for herself. She calls herself a beer sommelier, doing for microbrews what a traditional sommelier does for Super Tuscans. She says she “geeked out” on beer while working at Father’s Office in Santa Monica, a bar known for its extensive selection of beer, and now her “biggest passion is teaching people how beer pairs with food.” And so she helps restaurants and bars develop beer lists and train their staffs, organizes pairings with chefs at public events and teaches beer classes.

Perozzi has a blog (christinaperozzi.com), is writing a book (“Beer 4 Chx”) and says she would also like to branch out into beer tours, any one of which would have been job enough at one point in time.

Personally, I’d like to nab a job as an “affineur.” It refers to the person who improves the flavor of a cheese through aging for a few months or enhancing by some method such as washing in brandy.

Or maybe beer?

Promoting beer knowledge vs. snobbery

Now the New York Times has written about the city’s first beer sommelier, a already discussed here a couple of months ago.

This will lead to a whole ‘nother round of posts in various blogs, and probably touch upon some more interesting ideas (including still more discussion if sommelier is a wine specific word). I promise not to beat you over the head with too many pointers, but here is an interesting thought from Roger Baylor:

This is the part that I’m having a problem embracing:

“We don’t aim towards pub people,” he said. “We’re about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience.”

Whether or not there is a word that accurately describes the function of ordering and recommending beer — a beer sommelier — how can it be so blithely divorced from the consciousness of pub people?”

In my experience, that’s where the “geeks” came from in the first place.

Beer knowledge is important, and to disseminate it through the experience and wisdom of a “beer sommelier” is something worthy of praise, but to imbue it with pretentiousness is both unnecessary and potentially self-defeating.

It’s hard enough going out there every day and having to un-do the incessant dumbing down of beer perpetuated by a half-century of megabrewing theory and practice without mimicking the excesses of wine snobbery.

Feel free to discuss.

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.

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