With only three beer experts to have reached the master level, the clique is nearly as exclusive as its older cousin, the Master Sommelier Diploma for wine stewards. We’ve already heard about the rigors of the Master Cicerone exam from candidate and Civilization of Beer founder, Samuel Merritt, but how can their knowledge and education benefit the diner?
The growing emphasis on a richly varied beer program means that upscale restaurants are employing these studious beer experts to build out an ever-changing roster of little-known craft brews. In turn, the beer sommeliers are engaging with the brew-fan community through events like tastings and classes. Though it's a rising trend in the U.S., the idea of a beer sommelier at a restaurant is not foreign in beer-centric countries like Czech Republic and Germany, home to the other master course at the Doemens Academy in Munich.
Amping up the rocker attitude that sets it apart from other Daniel Boulud restaurants, DBGB has cultivated a younger, hipper clientele that is at the forefront of the beer trend. The restaurant’s beer sommelier, Hayley Jensen, organizes monthly tastings to showcase cult breweries and styles, like unsweetened lambics from Brasserie Cantillon that would be risky additions to the on-tap offerings but, in small stock, are an exclusive opportunity to try obscure brews.
Elevating the form far above suds ‘n’ grub, a handful of upscale restaurants around the country have hired on-staff beer sommeliers who put on special beer dinners, tastings, and pairings. Chicago’s Publican joined the craft beer revolution early, bringing on Mike Avena as Beer Director.
In addition to curating the restaurant’s extensive (and Belgian-heavy) beer list, he invites brewmasters for themed tastings, like a beer and truffle dinner last October. Café d’Alsace’s beer sommelier, Gianni Cavicchi, promotes beer events and specials via his web site Beersom.com while Beer Director Greg Engert announces new casks and drafts to the Churchkey’s Twitter followers and also hosts a monthly beer dinner at Birch & Barley.
New York, N.Y.
In January, beer sommelier Hayley Jensen put on the first of a new monthly tasting series, pairing lambics with selections from Saxelby Cheesemongers, and on February 15, she’ll pair beer with sausage. Tastings are 5-7 p.m. and cost $25. (Photo courtesy of DBGB Kitchen & Bar)
San Francisco, Calif.
Certified Cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski makes sure the roster of nearly 200 beers are regularly updated with imported ales and lagers as well as local craft beers. Each month he also organizes a Brewery Dinner at which beers are paired with five to seven courses.
A winning combo of a beer-friendly restaurant and a food-friendly beer bar, the Washington, D.C. newcomer has received plenty of accolades, in particular for Beer Director Greg Engert’s craft beer choices.
One of the most highly regarded restaurants in the country, Publican was originally inspired by a European beer hall. Although the menu is much more sophisticated, the beer program managed by Beer Director Mike Avena is definitely Euro-centric.
New York, N.Y.
Featuring Alsatian cuisine from chef Philippe Roussel, Café d’Alsace employs beer sommelier Gianni Cavicchi who specializes in beer and food pairing and posts events like Firkin Fridays on his site, Beersom.com.
With The Bristol’s focus on seasonal food, manager Erin Phillips also serves as the restaurant’s resident beer sommelier. She’s sure to have an answer to what pairs the best with beef heart or another of the restaurant’s nose-to-tail dishes.
Near Sacramento, Taste is a locavore’s restaurant set a bit off the beaten track in Amador Wine Country. Certified Beer Server and manager Tracy Annette Reiser is working on her Cicerone certification.