Most are probably familiar with the figure of a sommelier, whose refined palate allows them to analyze all things vino. But in recent years, a new certification has popped up: the beer sommelier, or cicerone. This figure, certified by the Beer Judge Certification Program, needs to know everything beer, from tastings and styles to food pairings and beer history.
Megan Reynolds became a certified cicerone in 2016, and opened Woodstock’s R&R Taproom later that year. Here she answers our questions about her unique specialty.
You have to know different tastings. It’s about knowing the traditional styles. It also tests you on what shouldn’t be in beers — off-flavors that, when you work with beer, you have to detect. It’s important to know when things aren’t right. You also have to know about draft systems, as well as styles of glassware for beer and food pairings, that set a standard for service.
There are a lot of crazy beers out there, brewed with all kinds of flavors. I try to identify flavors and determine what in the beer causes them.
I’m serving the public, so when I drink beer I think about whether I will be serving it to people. With a pilsner, for instance, it should have similar elements every time. I’m tasting it to see if it hits the right marks, because the public will want it to taste a certain way, and the beer should meet their expectations.
Beer pairs well with food, and it’s an important part of the cicerone exam. Casual drinkers might not think about it, but it’s a fascinating area.
When I’m at home, I almost always drink lagers. Easy-drinking beers are approachable, and Suarez Family Brewing in Clermont brews some of the best American lagers.