“You work at a brewery- Am I going to like this beer?” – I get asked this question a lot and to be honest until recently I never knew how to answer this question.
Yes I work at a brewery, but I could tell you more about the fonts and colors of the menu than what was in the glass. I was that kid who when we got cheap fake IDs was only interested in buying the cheapest booze and couldn’t care less about the taste. When we opened LRB we had a great group of people with different backgrounds and expertise. My skill set was in communication and information layout. So naturally I worked on menu layout, signs, basically anything that had an image on it. My favorite part was I got to work with one of my BFFs who does all the social and between the two of us there is a lot of design and communication needs at a brewery. After five years our list of “to do” is still long and growing. – “Great, BUT will I like this beer?”
About a year ago I was in Chicago doing a press check on colors for our printed Double Indemnity Double IPA cans and my aunt lives there so I extended my stay so I could visit. We had the family come over for dinner and in the midst of catching up with everyone my Aunt Anna said, “I never know what beer to buy, will I like that beer?” I felt like a fraud because I honestly wanted to say, do you like Sans-Serif or Serif fonts on the label? I had no idea how to talk about beer. I knew what I liked to drink it but I was tongue-tied to explain it. I came back determined to get a handle on the different beer styles and learn how to discuss beer.
First step was to figure out where to begin. At the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville last April we discussed the need for more “beer” training and looked to the Cicerone Certification Program. A Cicerone is a beer sommelier, and to be a Cicerone you specialize in the service and knowledge of beer. There are four levels of Cicerone and it became our goal that everyone at LRB become a Certified Beer Server (1st Level). Not only would we all have a knowledge of how to handle beer but we could have a dialogue between us and our guests to talk about beer styles and flavors. We started beer knowledge gatherings last Summer. By Fall, everyone in the Front of the House (21+) took the exam, passed, and became a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. We all liked to think that we were experts coming into this exam because of the fact we were all over the age of 21 and had some experience when it came to beer. But I do have to say that some people looked like they used a fake ID, after looking for the best fake id websites, to qualify for the exam. They just looked so young to be 21, but that could be because I look considerably older than some of them. I hate to say it, but I think it’s true. Anyway, we continued our beer education gatherings for LRB staff and we started offering a Beer 101 Examination Class for our guests.
Another step I took to expand my knowledge of beer was to join the Pink Boots Society, which is a non-profit organization supporting women working in the brewing profession, especially in creating craft beer. Being a small business it’s easy to get too busy to network with other people in your industry. The Pink Boots of Charlotte Chapter meets once a month and we discuss “beer” topics. We have done tastings and just talk about how to handle issues that come up in running a brewery. Maybe it was a little less intimidating for me to talk about beer with other women who also worked in the beer industry but it has helped me get a handle on beer styles, taste, and flavor. Currently, I have a study group with another member of the Pink Boots Society as we get prepared to take the next level Cicerone Exam.
So now when I get asked, “Am I going to like this beer?” I say, “Well, let’s talk about it.”