Sommeliers: They're Not Just for Wine Anymore
Typically when you think of a sommelier, you think of wine — even Wikipedia defines a sommelier as someone trained and specializing in the wine profession. After all, wine is a complex drink of sophistication, usually used for celebratory occasions (and often accompanying a nice meal). To be a wine sommelier you have to spend years studying every nuance of the field, including the history of different varietals and the merits of specific glasses. You can ask a wine sommelier anything you want about wine, whether it be which type you should drink with pasta or with meats, and they can answer your question and more.
Though wine sommeliers are the most popular type of expert, they're not the only ones out there. More and more people are branching off into different areas, from beer and whiskey to that of tea and coffee, proving that wine isn't the only beverage worthy of closer examination.
To be a beer sommelier (often called a cicerone), you have to understand everything regarding beer styles and ingredients, as well as the history of beer, brewing, glassware, beer service, draught systems and food pairings. While the profession is still pretty new, with the uprising in craft beers and home brewing, a bright spotlight has been shone on beer and it's only growing. "Beer seems to be where it's getting its attention a lot more from the culinary side of things, where chefs are starting to work real closely with it," says Andrea Robinson, Master Sommelier and three-time James Beard Award-winner. "You're talking about characteristics that are accessible and unique from beer to beer based on how the barley is handled, as well as how much hops are added [and] the types of yeast used, so it tremendously affects the style."
There are a good handful of companies you could get certified through, or just take a few courses if you want to learn more. The Cicerone Certification Program has a few different levels you can accomplish, from the basic Certified Beer Server ($69) to the Master Cicerone ($595).