Beer is more complex than wine,” declares Susanne Hecht. “For wine, you have various grapes but with beer, you have more ingredients like malts, hops and barley. And like wine, you can pair different beers with different foods,” she adds.
Hecht is one of only 20 female beer sommeliers in the world. Her job is to travel the world with the aim of elevating beer to the level of a gourmet experience. Like a wine sommelier, Hecht helps hotel and restaurant staff as well as beer lovers learn the finer nuances of various beer styles and advises them on ideal beer-and-food pairings. “I also teach people how to cook with beer and beer ingredients,” adds the 38-year-old German, a certified sommelier from the Doemens Institute, Munich who also works with Schneider Weisse brewery.
Hecht was in the capital recently to take afficionados and industry professionals on a unique tasting session of traditional, nouveau and boutique beers at Shangri-La Hotel, The Claridges and Olive Beach. The beers presented included the Bavarian Shneider Weisse, a dark wheat beer, Chimay Blue, a Trappist beer, and Zinne Bir, Saison Dupont Winterkoninske, all from Belgium.
Hecht’s arrival — the first such in the city — is an indication of Delhiites’ increasing interest in the hoppy brew. Susanne agrees. “The opening of microbreweries is a sign that Indians are becoming interested in different kinds of beer. People want to experiment and learn about different beers. There is potential for growth.”
For novices, her advice is: “Try different beers, have your own experience of them. You can’t learn about beers by heart — you’ve to train your nose,” she says.
So what is her favourite brew ? “I don’t have one...it depends on the occasion and the food. But on cold winter evenings, I like a rich beer with chocolatey overtones. For me, that’s a beer sit by the fireside and enjoy.”