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Beer goes highbrow with beer sommeliers

entertainment Updated: Dec 26, 2011 19:34 IST

There's a growing movement on tap in which beer is demanding respect.

The brew is going highbrow, with beer academies in the US and the UK churning out graduates who call themselves beer sommeliers, experts who can suggest food and beer pairings with dishes where wine just wouldn’t stack up.

Restaurants with minimal beer lists risk looking outmoded, declared an article published last week on entitled “Why beer deserves the same kind of expertise as wine.” And with the growing number of specialty craft brewers, expanding beer lists now require explanations that describe their flavor, style, aroma, and producer much like wine.’s where schools like Cicerone in the US and the Beer Academy in the UK come in.

Cicerone calls itself a beer certification program and is headed by beer expert, author and Craft Beer Institute president Ray Daniels. Last month, his program certified its 8,000th beer server since opening in 2008, teaching students everything from beer storage, service, popular beer styles, culture, brewing process and ingredients.

The program offers three levels of certification, including a Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone, which has passed just three candidates, reported Cicerone means guide or mentor.

Meanwhile, last month the Beer Academy in the UK named the first four accredited beer sommeliers to emerge from the school, recipients who were described as being at the vanguard of beer’s renaissance.

“Beer is Great Britain’s national drink but for too long it has been seen as a less sophisticated choice than wine. No longer,” said academy director Simon Jackson in a statement. “We are seeing a brewing resurgence in the UK with hundreds of breweries opening in the past decade and pubs, restaurants and hotels offering a wide range of beers to accompany their menus.”

The release of The Oxford Companion to Beer this fall has likewise elevated beer to a level of sophistication that’s been enjoyed exclusively by the wine industry.

The first major reference book to investigate the history and scope of the brew, the beer encyclopedia features more than 1,100 beers, written by 166 prominent beer experts around the world.

The book was also chosen as one of the best books of 2011 by editors at