So you like craft beer. Ok, you like beer A LOT. In fact, you like it (and drink it) so much that your friends are starting to wonder about you. Ever feel like beer lovers just don’t get the respect they deserve? And just because they don’t swirl their glasses!
Well, I have good news for you, there is something you can do about it. Become a Craft Beer Expert! This will dispel any misgivings that would-be naysayers might be having about your imbibing proclivities. You are probably already saying to yourself, “Ok, that sounds AWESOME! But how on earth do I do it? Where do I start?” Fret not. We’ve got nine steps to get you started down the path to beer respect!
Step 1. Read, Read, Read, Read and Read Some More
There are piles of fantastic books and truly amazing online resources to get you started down the path to beer expertdom. Here are a couple of titles that literally EVERYONE in the world of beer recommends to help you out of the gate:
The Oxford Companion to Beer – This is basically the Bible of beer. Wine drinkers have one, too (but this one’s better). Just get one.
Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink – Here you will learn that there is oh, so much more to tasting beer than tapping the keg, cracking the can or bottle and tossing them back. There is a subtle art to it and these guys have it down to a science. This book is recommended by the Cicerone Certification Program!
And check out freakishly good sites like the ones below where you will learn a ton and find even more resources on your quest for beer experthood:
Step 2. Become a Certified Cicerone or Beer Judge
What on earth is a Cicerone? (Pronounced, “Siss-uh-Rhône” – I had to, sorry. Ok, not really sorry. You can take the girl away from the wine, but only for a second.) Well might you ask! It is a bona fide Beer Expert certified by organizations like Cicerone.org. To become a Certified Cicerone (or work your way up to a Master Cicerone) you have to study hard, drink a lot of beer and pass several rigorous tests. But hey, then you get to say that you really ARE a beer expert! And no one will ever question your consumption of the suds again.
If you feel really motivated, you can even work toward becoming a beer judge (drink more beer for a good cause!). The Beer Judge Certification Program is a good place to start.
Step 3. Follow Beer Experts and Learn from Them
The beer community is a wonderful thing. Next to drinking beer, I’m pretty sure their next favorite activity is talking, posting and writing about it (don’t get me started on the posting of beer photos!). Here are a couple of expert blogs to get you started:
Ashley Routson, beer maven extraordinaire behind The Beer Wench.
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone
Visit the Beer Bloggers Conference website to find a long list of beer bloggers to follow.
Step 4. Attend Beer Conferences and Festivals
Unless you live far away from civilization, there are bound to be several beer-related gatherings happening where you live. Take advantage of these to meet brewers, beer geeks and folks in the industry. A few notable events:
Beer Weeks are hosted in most major cities
AND there is an entire organization devoted to beer festivals! (Of course there is!)
Check your local craft brew pubs for fun, local and regional festivals too.
Step 5. Take Classes at Your Local Brewery
There is probably a local craft brewery closer than you think that offers some sort of classes. Head in (another justification for drinking beer) and ask the staff!
You can also take classes online! Check out these “beer schools.”
Step 6. Brew Your Own Beer at Home
Who doesn’t want to become known for their very own homebrew!? Now YOU can be that guy/gal! Yes, even you. The Homebrewers’ Association is a fantastic place to get started on your first batch. And if you really want the simple, easy, no fuss approach, try out the über-easy Hop Box brewing kit.
Step 7. Check out YouTube for an Entire Gamut of Tutorials
Pick a rainy night and hunker down in front of your computer with a beer for a few hours of “research.” Ranging from the ultra-serious to the über-ridiculous, you’ll find lots of beer videos (some are more educational than others!).
This is kind of hilarious! A wine expert reviews cheap beer.
CBS News even gets on the bandwagon on how to become a beer expert.
Step 8. Mod Yourself and Your Belongings to Show Your Dedication to the Craft
Nothing will authenticate your beer expertness more than bumper stickers, laptop stickers, T-shirts and tattoos (how dedicated are you??) and such. Your quest to drink great craft beer is nothing short of the quest for the holy grail, right? So let the world know. Here are some great examples to get you started.
Step 9. Last, But Not Least, DRINK MORE BEER!
That’s right. The best part is that in order to learn more about beer, you have to taste and drink a lot of beer! Consider starting a beer journal where you make notes on all the beers you
drink professionally evaluate. This will help you begin to develop your palate and learn the different styles of beer and to learn what you really like and don’t like.
Here is a fantastic score sheet with some definitions of aromas and flavors to help you get a real feel for the kind of extensive evaluation that goes into professional beer tasting. Think of these as you begin writing in your beer tasting journal.