Charlotte Harding gets an education from Sussex’s first beer sommelier.
It is fair to say that we are currently in the middle of a beer revolution.
With a boom of ‘craft ales’ and independent breweries popping up it is taking on wine at its own game.
It is something that Robert Parker, Sussex’s first beer sommelier, is passionate about.
“I want to talk to people about the misconceptions relating to beer and the way people drink it,” says Robert.
“It can be enjoyed with food just like wine.”
Robert founded Beer & Brew last year to help people understand and enjoy the beverage.
He provides consultancy for breweries, pubs and restaurants and runs public and private events and courses.
And while many people sampled their first beer at 18, Robert was 21. “My partner’s parents always had wine with their meals but I never really liked wine,” reveals Robert.
“They asked if I would prefer a beer and my first one was a San Miguel. Afterwards I kept thinking more and more about it, more than anyone should think of a beer.”
From here he began his research visiting Belgium and Germany to try different beers, and decided to complete a range of courses through the IBD (Institute of Brewing and Distilling) website to expand his knowledge.
“I started becoming disillusioned with my career choice in business management so looked into becoming a beer sommelier,” says Robert.
“I got in touch with IBD and explained that I hadn’t worked in the industry but that I had done the courses they had. I showed them what I could do and they said yes.”
There are only 131 beer sommeliers in the world.
The qualification recognises outstanding knowledge and understanding of beers from across the world, beer and food pairing, and the brewing process.
“Beer is anything that has been made with hops, yeast, cereal and water so lagers, ales, beers, IPA are all beer,” says Robert.
“You get a wine menu but why not a beer menu?
“I don’t like the snobbery that comes with wine and beer as they are on par and I think beer goes with so many more dishes.”
For anyone curious about sampling a beer, Robert does have some advice.
“I would say though for people not to try a modern American IPA as it can be quite bitter and malty and that seems to be what people don’t like about beer so it can put quite a few people off,” he says.
“Try a Belgian pilsner lager, Czech pilsner, or German wheat beer.
“Find one you like and then you can explore different strengths and flavour combinations.
“There are also so many different types of beer there is one for everyone.”
For more details on Beer & Brew, including its courses visit www.beerandbrew.co.uk or on Twitter by following
@BeerAndBrew or ‘like’ on Facebook www.facebook.com/beerandbrew
Robert brought some beers to sample with tasting notes you can see this in the January edition of etc Magazine.