JBU > Introductory

What’s the Best Way to Learn About Beer?

Ask a what? A Certified Cicerone®. That is, a beer expert who has passed a particular certification exam administered by the Craft Beer Institute. You can think of them as beer sommeliers. Obviously they know alot about beer and are a great resource.

What’s the Best Way to Learn About Beer?

Serious Eats asked several Certified Cicerones for tips on how to get better at tasting and describing beer, how to learn about all the many beer styles, and what books are worth reading.

Here are some of our favorite answers and you can see all the answers in Serious Eats Ask a Cicerone

“The best way to learn is to taste, taste, taste beer! Try three to four-ounce tastings of multiple beers in a flight. Go to beer tastings and beer dinners. Have a ‘bottle share’ with friends where each brings a different beer for all to taste. Learn what to look for when tasting, what ingredients you’re experiencing, and how to describe what your senses reveal, by using a good beer tasting sheet as a guide; several are available for free on the Internet including this one which I created.”

—Rob Hill (Total Wine & More)

Beer Tasting Sheet
Image by: Rob Hill, Total Wine & More

“Try to go to as many beer events as possible. But don’t go just to drink beer and get drunk. Meet the brewers and reps. Talk with them. There are a lot of smart people out there and one thing I have learned about this industry is we all like to share our knowledge and passion for beer. I also like to visit the Brewers Association website frequently.”

—Bryan Rounds (Central Coast Distributing)

“Some of my favorite books, ones that have played a part in my continuing beer education, are: Geuze & Kriek by Jef Van den Steen. It’s a recently translated book from Belgium about the history of Lambics and the Lambic brewers and blenders. Belgian Beer On The Menu by Ben Vinken is another recently translated Belgian book where Belgium’s top chefs pair meals with Belgian beers. It’s a mouthwateringly good book. Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff is a must for any ‘yeast wonks’ like myself. Finally: Great Beers of Belgium by Michael Jackson. No list is complete without a book by the late, great Michael Jackson. The last edition, finished just prior to his passing, is a glossy, beautiful homage to Belgium’s beers and breweries.”

—Christopher Barnes (I Think About Beer)

 

“When I first got into beer, every time I would get paid, I would go out and buy a dozen or so beers I’d never tried before and drink one every night until I got paid again. After a little while I started to notice the big differences between styles, the better examples of those styles, and what I was really enjoying personally. For books, anything by Michael Jackson, but more specifically, Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion. It goes through beer style by style and gives great information breaking them down into what makes them what they are. It also has great beer history and food and beer sections. I read it cover to cover about once a year, and it was one of the most valuable resources I had in studying for the Cicerone exam.”

—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)

Learn more from the Cicerones in Serious Eats Ask a Cicerone.

If I B U I’d Seriously Read More

Ode to Michael Jackson

The Role of the Cicerone

What is a Beer Flight?

How to Describe Beer Like a Pro

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