“An outstanding amount of things, from modern medicine and agriculture to American civilization (why do you think the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock?) - even the building of the pyramids, was fueled by beer!” - Anne Becerra, Certified Cicerone and Beer Director for Treadwell Park
If you haven't noticed, we are in the midst of a craft beer revolution. Small-scale breweries are popping up all over the country to meet consumer demand for higher quality, full-flavored, and locally-produced beer. While customers have the desire to elevate their brew choice, most people struggle to find their perfect pairing amongst the bewildering array of varietals. This disparity forces beer servers to take on the role of expert, educator and mind-reader in their ongoing quest to please guests. To help simplify the decision making process and separate session from stout, Anne Becerra, the first female Certified Cicerone in NYC and Beer Director for Treadwell Park, shares some tips.
Tips for Helping Guests Select Beer:
- There's a time and place for everything, so rather than ask what they like (to which the response is often: "beer"), ask what they're in the mood for.
- Find out what flavors interest them. (i.e., Ask if they want something refreshing, warming, bitter, sweet, strong, etc.)
- Ask what other beverages they enjoy drinking, and find them a beer to hit those spots.
- For the Bud/Coors/Miller fans: Recommend a great craft or classic European option of a pale lager or pilsner style of beer.
- An unbelievable amount of flavors and aromas come from hops - orange zest, pine, blueberry, pineapple, fresh grass, mango - the list is endless.
- Different hops are used for different styles of beer: European hops used for pilsners are soft and spicy, while American IPA's use aggressive, overtly bitter versions.
- Hops are as diverse as beer itself and are found in 99.999% of all beers, even the sweetest examples.
- Several breweries are now offering "single hop" beers which are brewed exclusively with one varietal. These are a great way to explore specific characteristics of different hops.
The Basics of Beer Service:
- Beer is very sensitive to light so a bottle of beer in a bright cooler can get "skunky" pretty quickly in the wrong environment.
- In a keg, beer is protected from external stressors, but clogged or dirty beer lines can negatively affect taste and texture, so it’s important they’re always clean.
- Bottle conditioned beers (beers that have undergone secondary fermentation in the bottle with live yeast) are continually developing new and exciting flavors as it's still "live." The bubbles tend to be finer and the carbonation more explosive- very similar to champagne.
- The Perfect Pour can be summed up by these three simple characteristics: Clean glass (not frosted please!), good beer, proper head.
Anne on Being A Beer Pioneer:
- I'm a total nerd when it comes to the history of beer, but finding out just how much of our society and life is due to beer was really surprising.
- I was already working in the beer industry, learning as much as I could about as many subjects as I could, when I met the founder of the organization (Cicerone Certification Program). Having a date in the books inspired me to learn more about the subjects I didn't really deal with like draught systems and laws.
- One thing to remember is that being a Cicerone is a designation, not a job. I'm a Beverage Director and Beer Writer who curates dinners and pairings, teaches classes, etc. while others are brewers, distributors, bartenders, and more. Passing the test shows that you have a certain level of beer knowledge, but how you use those skills is unique.
About Anne Becerra:
Anne is the first female Certified Cicerone in NYC and worked at the helm of some of the best craft beer bars in Manhattan (The Ginger Man, The Blind Tiger, The Pony Bar, Taproom 307) before finding her current home as Beer Director for Treadwell Park. In addition to her work in the bar and restaurant industry, Anne is a writer and has been featured in Serious Eats, The New York Times, CNN, TIME Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, NBC, Wall Street Journal, Viceland and countless others. She was named one of the "Heroes of the Craft Beer Movement" by Vanberg and DeWulf Imports, helped create the first ever IPA beer glass as a part of the New York tasting panel with Riedel and Spiegelau, has helped organize major festivals and events, and has conducted seminars at The Women's Chef and Restaurateur Conference in NYC, Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.