my name is dev, and you sound like an ass.

This is a quick response to an article that David Chang wrote for GQ Magazine titled “My Name is David Chang and I Hate Fancy Beer.” The amazing Garrett Oliver penned a response a few days later: “My Name is Garrett Oliver and I Hate Crappy Beer.” Please read both, as both are interesting and give some insight into the rising tide of disdain for beer geeks and the craft brewing industry. My comments were originally posted to a comment on Eater.com, but I have made some changes for this blog.

I love craft beer. I love it because I love seeking out new flavors and experiences and the people who work in the industry. It is my passion. I love educating others about beer and its history and complexities and how to pair it with food. Beer challenges me and delights me and makes me happy.

What I don’t like are people who judge others for their drink choices. Those who think that someone else’s decisions somehow negatively affect them. If you want to drink industrial beer and like it, great! Go for it! But if you ask me for a suggestion on what to drink, I’ll steer you towards a good craft or import that you might enjoy, just to expand your palate.

David Chang’s article was obnoxious and pretentious. His choice to constantly crow about his supposed “love” for industrial beer is just a way for him to put down those around him seeking different choices. He comes off as a prat, and one I wouldn’t want to eat or drink with. The fact that he has repeatedly approached Garrett Oliver, one of the gods of the craft beer industry, and “bragged” about how much he loves mass market brews just shows how crummy his character is. Also, the title of his article is about how he “hates fancy beer.” Except that he doesn’t. He flat-out says that he enjoys the flavors of many craft beer styles and that he has “seen the sunrise from the bar at Mikkeller” (good for you). This just proves that his headline is nothing but click bait. He is making the point that even though he has access to some of the best beers in the world – and clearly has favor with some brewers that many of us would kill to hang out with – he would rather shove it in their faces that he would prefer mass market beer.

And if he eschews beers even he calls “delicious” for mass market, flavorless beer… what does that say about his food? And if he is willing to be a creep to some of the greatest minds (and palates) in the beer industry, how does he treat others in his own? As someone not nearly famous or rich enough to be able to get a reservation at Momofuku, I can only speculate.

Oliver’s response is great. I love that he calls Chang out on the carpet and doesn’t let him get away with what is so clearly a cry for attention.

Yes, beer geeks (and foodies and wine snobs) can come off as pretentious. I know we can. I’m sorry for that – it’s really not (the majority of us, at least) our intention. We are just seeking out something new and different and exciting. We don’t want to waste our time and money and experiences (and calories, let’s be real, here) on something boring. I don’t think anyone has had an epiphany while drinking a Bud or felt true, deep delight while supping an MGD. But I cried when I first tried Westvleteren XII and I giggled in excitement when I tasted the Rare Barrel‘s Egregious.

Beer, for me, is so much more than something to quench my thirst.

And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay for beer to JUST be something to quench your thirst. But Chang’s crowing about how he so proudly struts his industrial beer love in the face of people just trying to do their jobs and share their enthusiasm makes him come off as a pretentious jerk. A pretentious jerk with bad taste, at that.

a wee little follow-up.

In my review “a plethora of pilsners“, I reviewed five pilsners produced by Saint Patrick’s Brewing Company in Englewood, Colorado. One of these beers I was not too kind to (I believe the word “harsh” was used) was the German Pilsner.

Well, the beauty of Saint Pat’s lagers is that they are lagered in the bottle, so are very much alive when poured into your glass.  As such, these beers will change over time. Of course, I failed to mention this or take it into account when talking about these beers. And that was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Because that German pilsner, when I drank it a week later, became my favorite of the pilsners. The hops have smoothed out and are now really playing nicely with the malts. Still very easy to drink, but with a distinct hop character.

Anyway, this is just a short mea culpa. But it’s also a good example of why my opinion – or anyone’s opinion – of such a subjective thing, should be treated as a guideline and not biblical truth. Like I said in my post about Lugene Stout, there are many, many people who love it, I just don’t. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad beer, it just means that my palate is not fond of it. I will always give reasons why I am not a fan of one beer or another so that you can make an educated decision.

However, if a beer does have severe issues with it, such as off-flavors, I will call it out. I will also try to identify where the problems are coming from (brewing, fermenting, packaging, etc). Again, education!

There is a part of me that doesn’t really want to do beer reviews. It’s kind of been done. But, at the same time, I’m approaching it from the angle of education rather than just bitching about what I do or do not like. Yeah – let’s pretend it’s about education. That’ll work.

I promise a longer post in the next week. The PJ has eaten away at my brain and my time, but there’s always room for beer!

Cheers.

I know stuff.

certified-cicerone

So I passed my Certified Cicerone® exam.

Holy crap. I honestly didn’t know if I would. The amount of knowledge we are expected to have mastered is insane. Feeling unprepared on October 7th and changing my test date from the 11th to the 8th, is insane. Thinking that I was up to the challenge at all, is insane. But somehow I did it.

For those who don’t know, the Cicerone Certification Program is an organization that issues levels of certification for beer knowledge. This knowledge includes beer styles, beer flavor and evaluation, beer storage and serving, brewing processes, beer ingredients, and beer and food pairing. There are three levels: Beer Server Cicerone, Certified Cicerone®, and Master Cicerone®. The Beer Server Cicerone test (which I passed in June) consists of 60 questions in an online test. The Certified Cicerone® exam is administered in person and last for four hours, including 150 short-answer questions, four essays, a tasting section, and a recorded demonstration. The Master Cicerone® exam is also administered in person and occurs over two days. It consists of essay questions, oral examinations, and extensive tasting. And it’s fucking terrifying. But more on that later…

When I got my results for my Certified Cicerone® exam, it was a wee bit anticlimactic. I was told it would be 4-8 weeks before I received them. Having waited about the same amount of time for [insert tired Comcast installation window reference here], I knew it would be torture. I was not disappointed: it was! But, luckily, the turmoil in my delicate headmeat lasted exactly 29 days, well short of the pessimistic 60.

When my phone dinged at me and I saw that it was my “beer business only” email that was pregnant with news, I positively buzzed with excitement. I was sitting in the Bearded Brewer’s truck while he was loading the back with trash to take to the transfer station (woohoo living in the mountains!) I shouted something along the lines of “akh;ladsfkhasdkfjh CICERONE lksjlfksdj IN HERE andalkdjflasdf BLARGHHHHHHHH!”

The Bearded Brewer spent several star lifecycles perfectly arranging the bags in the bed of the truck before climbing into the seat next to me. I had my finger hovering over the little envelope symbol, ready for liftoff as soon as he was seated next to me.

CLICK. Or, rather, TAP.

I expected to get the email from the Cicerone program and have to actually open it to find out if I was a badass or if it was time for one of my legendary 10-hour long shower, booze, and sob-fests. Instead, I received the email from the program with my scores, and immediately above it, an email titled “Certified Cicerone Roster and Logo.” It kind of gave the game away. Not that I’m ungrateful, but I do like the manufactured tension of waiting to see who will be the Biggest Loser (hint: it’s the one who looks like Skeletor).

I tend to get excited about really dumb things. Like the time the Cupcake Truck tweeted that they were coming all the way out to my job in the industrial area of Denver and I ran around the office waving my hands like Kermit and shrieking that everyone HAD to buy a cupcake or I would just DIE. Or every single time I see a Siberian husky.

Maybe it was the premature evaluation based on the email trail. Maybe it was the “Cool” and high-five I received from the Bearded Brewer. Maybe it was the fact that said male companion proceeded to have a meltdown when he realized the transfer station was now closed and he would have to unload the trash from the truck and bring it another day. Maybe it was that this was not something “stupid”, but a really big deal that should be taken seriously. But while I had a momentary high one gets from finding out they aren’t getting kicked out of school or that there’s minus on the ClearBlue, that was all I had.

I tried to give my excitement some CPR by posting my results on Facebook and Twitter, but that didn’t help. When my mom called (justifiably pissed that I had told my “friends” before her), that should of saved it. But no. The sob-fest was not to be avoided. My exultation had been aborted and there was no way of reviving it.

Now, one would surmise that, being a beer geek, I would immediately drown my sorrows & celebrate my triumph in as much high-quality beer as I could gather. But I couldn’t. The thought of drinking beer actually made things worse. I guess this would be the best argument against those who have posited that I might possibly be an alcoholic: when I was at the lowest of low, the LAST thing I wanted was a drink.

The only thing that made me feel better was to re-read and re-re-read my results email and see how I made that test my bitch. Well, at least some of the test.

Overall Score: 91% (Blam!)

Tasting Exam: 100% (Blam blam!)

Keeping and Serving Beer: 86% (No so much of a blam, but still okay I guess)

Beer Styles: 91% (Blam!)

Beer Flavor & Evaluation: 99% (Blammidy blam!)

Ingredients & Process: 92% (Blam!)

Beer & Food Pairing: 85% (Let’s just pretend you didn’t see that one…)

And, bizarrely enough, it was something in the letter that is probably on all the emails the program sends out, that I kept returning to. In my Eeyoric state, it meant something truly special to me:

“Great scores, Dev!”

The Grading Manager for the Cicerone Program thought that my scores were “great.” For some reason, my partner’s cool response, my friends’ congratulations, my parents’ pride could not shake me loose. But that one little sentence on a form letter from a stranger kept the light alive. I am one strange puppy.

So now, I have a nifty, trademarked title after my name that tells people that, maybe, I do know one or two things about beer.

And now, a week later, I AM excited. (Cue uplifting scrappy-underdog-beats-all-odds music). It’s awesome. And other people think it’s awesome, too. My friends: Fixie and Janelle and Zack and Courtney and Thomas and Sarah and Britt and Joe and Mike and Bill and Matt and Allison and I’m forgetting so many other people and feel like a jerk – but MY FRIENDS! My family: Mom and Dad and Jae and Jess and Libby and Jim and Joanna and Amy and Yvonne and Joe and Sharon! Fans of the Brewery Rickoli Facebook page where the news was posted! The Rickoli’s Grand Crew! The owner of Barrels & Bottles in Golden who gave me a big hug when I introduced myself! The brewer at Sanitas who gave me an awesome high-five! And yes, the Bearded Brewer.

It feels good.

Then there are some who may not see this as the accomplishment it is. I recognize that not everyone respects brewing and beer as the serious and nuanced business it is. And the Cicerone program has a long way to go before being universally recognized on the same level as the Sommelier program. I get it, I do. But just as I don’t fully grasp what goes into becoming a Certified Project Manager or a Pharmacist or a respectable member of society, doesn’t mean that I can’t respect that amount of dedication and work that goes into gaining that title.

I guess what I’m trying to say cannot be stated in any better way than this:

Respect my authoritah!!!

You said it, Cartman.

Despite a bit of a rocky start, I am very excited to see where this all takes me. I’m giving myself around two years to study for the Master Cicerone® exam, which only takes place 1-2 times per year. The third-level test is far more extensive than the Certified Cicerone® exam, and virtually requires a trip (or two) to Europe to tour breweries and taste beers (I know, sounds horrible, right?) Give a peek at the Master Cicerone® syllabus to give some idea of what I’m in for. Yes, just the syllabus is 23 pages long.

But I am finally excited. If I’ve learned anything from these first few steps (besides 63 beer styles, all of their qualitative and quantitative data, beer and food pairings, brewing, and serving beer, that is), it’s that I’m a journey person, not a destination seeker. It’s all about the ride and learning as much as I can. Of course I want to succeed and have a shiny new pin and a title after my name, but it’s the knowledge that really gets my yahyahs going.

There are only ~1,000 Certified Cicerones® in the world, and only seven Master Cicerones®, so it’s a huge mountain to climb. But I’ve already reached Base Camp Number Two. The path is steep and littered with dead beer cans and bottles, but I think I can do it. Tell the summit I’m coming for it.

Cheers,

Dev

Can’t get enough of my inanity?