I am pleased to announce a springtime course in beer information and appreciation, timed specifically for use as a study group for the upcoming Cicerone® exam on April 8th at the Raleigh Times, but most certainly not limited to those interested in taking the exam.

What is covered in the course of the class?

The entirety of the Certified Cicerone® Course Syllabus (opens a PDF, all non-blue sections) and a few pieces of the Master Cicerone® topics, if they seem to show a full picture of any given topic. Each class will last 1.5 – 2 hours and will be split between a discussion section and a tasting session.

Here is a sample breakdown of how the course will run:

Week 1: Intro, Beer Ingredients, How to Taste Beer, Style history and tastings.
Week 2: Hot-side of Brewing (from milling through mashing, boiling and lautering), Off-flavor tasting.
Week 3: Cold-side of Brewing (yeast and fermentation), Style history and tastings.
Week 4: Post-fermentation brewery-side handling (clarification, filtration, souring, and conditioning). Style history and tastings.
Week 5: Beer packaging, shipment, storage, and aging. Off-flavor tastings.
Week 6: Serving beer: draft systems, casks, bottles, glassware, and the rest. Style history and tastings.
Week 7: Beer and food. Style history and tastings.
Week 8: Everything we’ve missed, questions, and review. Off-flavor tastings.

It’s not “how to brew” (though that’ll be covered), it’s not a drinking class, it’s “About Beer.” You’ll learn every step of the process between field and mouth, it’s history, and it’s care and handling. It might best be labeled “How to Enjoy Beer” or even “How to Help Others Enjoy Beer.”

When does this class happen?

Sunday evenings at 8PM, starting February 13th.

An astute observer will notice that there are fewer than 8 weeks between February 13th and April 8th, so there will be at least one week where we double-up somewhere and either have a long class or two classes; most likely the week of the exam. A full schedule will be posted on the first day.

Where does this class happen?

At the location of the soon-to-be Mystery Brewing Company.


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Who’s teaching this class?

Yours truly, Erik L. Myers of Mystery Brewing Company. Full disclosure: I am also studying for the Cicerone® exam and while I can teach most of this content off the top of my head, this class will also be a learning opportunity for me. It doesn’t mean that you’ll get any false or bad information, but it does mean you might catch me having to look up the answer to question now and again.

How do I sign up?

The class is $85 per person (+ Eventbrite fee). It covers off-flavor tasting supplies, style tasting supplies, other supplies (like paper, cups, etc.).

Note! I am not affiliated with the Cicerone program, I’m just working toward become certified, myself and so am using their syllabus as an overall guideline. Cicerone®, Certified Cicerone® and Master Cicerone® are registered trademarks of the Cicerone Certification Program.

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Categories: appreciation, cicerone
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 31 Jan 2011 @ 11 03 AM

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 08 Mar 2010 @ 9:30 PM 

What I needed, more than anything, was another project to work on.

My brain has delivered unto me another idea.

Back in February, a buddy and I went up to Winston-Salem for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release Party. There, we ran into the gents from Hop Cast. Nice guys. I mention them as gents, however, because of their participation in The Fellowship of Gentlemenly Gentlemen. It is a group of people who get together on a general basis with a plan for tasting beer, cigars, and liquors in a social setting. As it’s been described to me, it sounds like a good time, and in our brief conversation we said – maybe we should start something up. After all, “Southern Gentlemen” has quite a ring to it.

Then my brain started working on it, which is never healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m working on something but not moving on it, the idea kind of ferments in my head: starts off as one thing, I add beer, it kind of works around in there, I add more beer, and then three weeks later it emerges from its alcohol-soaked chrysalis as some sort of… insect, I guess.

Here’s what came out:

I want a tasting group.

Stuff that’s somewhat similar to my idea already exists in my local area. There’s TriBeer, but it seems to be about just showing up and socializing where there is beer. While that’s cool, it’s not what I’m looking for. There’s the classes put on by our local homebrew mecca American Brewmaster. They focus on styles, how to taste them, and how to make them. They’ve got one coming up on Belgian Ales. It’s definitely a good resource, but I’m not really looking for another homebrew event or how-to-brew information necessarily. And that tasting panel is really wide. “All Belgian beers”? Holy moly. That’s quite a target.

I want something like this:

A group of people show up at a bar. They know ahead of time that there’s a theme. Tonight, we’ll be drinking porters. Someone (who was prepped ahead of time) gets up and talks a little bit about the history of the style, what people generally expect when they drink porters, maybe a rundown of the BJCP style and the BA style. Then, you drink a porter. You talk about what you just had. What flavors did you taste? What components of what you just talked about did you notice in this porter? Then, you drink a different porter. How did it compare the previous porter? How as it different? How was it alike? How do either of these beers relate to the style overall? Then, you drink a third porter. Same questions. Talk, educate, taste, learn.

Basically, I guess what I want is a book club, but for beer. I want it to be educational, and I want it to be for people who are not necessarily beer geeks. I want to help people explore their palates, and learn new things. I want them to be able to talk about it and not be afraid of sounding stupid. I want people to learn what they like and what they don’t like. I want people to grow and help craft beer grow at the same time.

So I’m putting one together.

I’m putting the wheels in motion next Monday. I’m planning on doing it at Tyler’s Taproom in Durham. The first week will most likely focus on IPA, mainly because – after perusing their menu – that’s what they have three of. Until I can get permission to actually bring beer in somewhere and create a more customizable flight, that’ll be the easiest thing. I hope to be able to put a handful of people together and I hope to god that there will be somebody there that I don’t know. Bonus points if they also don’t know beer (or IPA) and are there to learn.

I don’t know. The whole thing could be a bust. It might just be me hanging out with friends drinking IPAs on a Monday night. That doesn’t sound so terribly bad, though. But I’d really like it to be the start of something great.

Next comes the huge question: What do you call it?

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Categories: appreciation, RDU
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2010 @ 11 44 AM

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 15 Jul 2009 @ 4:41 PM 

Last night, I went to multi-brewery beer dinner. It’s the first time I’d gone to a beer dinner that wasn’t hosted at a brewery and also the first since I started writing here. Overall, I had a blast, but it got me to thinking: What exactly makes a successful beer dinner?
Beer Dinner Menu, Spice Street, July 14, 2009
Certainly, there are two easy starting points: Good food and good beer. Without those, you are doomed to fail, but if that’s the only thing you’ve got, I think you’re only coming out at mediocre. So I tried to come up with a little list of what I think makes (or would make) a beer dinner exceptional.

Have brewery reps present. Last night, we had brewmasters from two of the four breweries represented on site (Triangle and Lone Rider, and a rep from a 3rd (Natty Greene’s). They came around to each table as their beer was being served and talked a little bit about the style, how they thought it would pair with the course, a little about what was going on with them for business and everything. It was a wonderful touch, and the 4th brewery was noticeably absent when their beer was poured. If brewery reps aren’t available, at the very least, have a beer connoisseur or cicerone available to go around to each table to talk to people about what they’re drinking and eating.

Be thoughtful with your pairings. I really enjoyed the menu last night, but we had what I would consider beer pairings for wine people. I’m not trying to be disparaging, here, but it was organized in a very familiar way. Light beers went with seafood. Dark beers went with red meat and chocolate. It’s traditional, and really mimics the way most people pair wines with food. To be fair, if you’ve got a wine-friendly crowd that’s fairly unfamiliar with beer/food pairings, this is probably a great way to go. Myself, I like it when you actually work on the flavors available in the food and the beer together for an end result.

For instance, one of the pairings last night was Lone Rider’s Shotgun Betty Hefeweissen with a hop-marinated scallop and frisee salad. This is a traditional pairing. I’m not sure it really worked. Without doubt: the beer was excellent and the scallop was excellent, but the beer scrubbed the rather delicate flavor of the scallop off of your palate entirely. They were both great, but they weren’t great together. It might have been really interesting to see Lone Rider’s Deadeye Jack Porter paired in this instance; using the dark roasted flavors (and probably lower carbonation) to play against the light flavors and somewhat spicy flavors in the scallop to create a whole new sensation across the palate might have been really fantastic. Mind you – I haven’t tried it. It might suck. But I think getting that kind of non-traditional pairing right is a step toward creating a fantastic beer dinner.

At the same time, you can’t really beat chocolate stout and chocolate cake together, traditional or not. Damn that’s tasty.

Give people information. I think it’s important to remember that craft beer still has a really small market share and that to population at large, craft beer – much less beer/food pairing – is something entirely new. Giving people information – especially printed information – that they can refer to during the dinner and even take with them afterward, is tantamount in getting them to enjoy themselves and come back for more later. Tell them what they’re drinking, what to expect out of what they’re drinking, what to expect from the pairing, and where to find the beer later. (Presumably, they know where to find the food.) Education is key. There are three related reasons that so many smart people are into wine: 1) There is a lot to learn. 2) There are readily available resources to learn about wine. 3) Smart people like learning. Craft beer fits into the same mold. Exploit it.

What about you? Outside of “good beer” and “good food” what makes a good beer dinner into a great beer dinner for you?

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