Cali Beercation, Day 3 – The Redwoods & Anderson Valley

Day 3 was our day with the most driving and the least number of stops. But Ben and I agreed that it was our favorite day out of the whole trip!

We stayed in Oregon the night before and drove into California. Our main mission for the day was to drive on Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and to figure out as we drove where to go next.

We drove past a beach early in the day at the beginning of our trip and snapped a few photos. Ben’s not one to cooperate for pictures (unless I get him drunk, and even then, he’ll oblige, but make weird faces or “fish hook” my mouth, ruining all my pictures). Because it was Ben’s suggestion to pull over by the beach for a few photos, I hastily and happily snapped a few while I had Ben in a rare cooperative photo moment. When I got back in the car, I found that my hair was the thing that wasn’t cooperating. It was channeling the horrendous Donald Trump combover. Not. A good look. Oh well! The rare and elusive Ben Farrar was captured on film! So I guess I can’t complain! 

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Neither Ben nor myself had ever seen a giant redwood tree in person. We’re pretty giant people ourselves. Ben is 6’6” and I’m 5’11”. In 500 years, when we have kids, they’ll undoubtedly be giants. I don’t think either of us is very easily impressed or taken aback by nature. The last time I was in awe of nature when I saw the stately, rigid snow-capped mountains and the magnificent view at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado.

We were driving and knew we were getting near the forest. Our eyes were peeled looking for the first tree. They didn’t need to be. It was almost as if it jumped out at us. We literally both gasped in shock. And suddenly, we were enveloped in redwood trees, driving slowly with dropped jaws and constant exclamation of our disbelief.

We pulled off at the first spot we could. I feel like at that moment, getting out of our vehicle, was like a moment of awe in one of the Jurassic Park movies when someone stopped to get out of their vehicle, awestruck at the first sight of these larger than life dinosaurs. That’s exactly how I felt. And these trees were fucking dinosaurs… They can grow to be 2,000 years old.

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Ben and I wandered into the forest like children, looking up, trying to take it all in. I’ve never felt so small. I found a fallen tree and tried to climb on top of it. My long legs could barely reach to get me atop the moss-covered trunk. It just seemed to stretch for miles.

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I really can’t adequately explain how beautiful it was. I snapped some photos that do it far more justice.

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We stopped several times at little pull-off spots to explore more. The entire drive was right through the dense forest. I felt like I was in the movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. We were microscopic.

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At one of the pull-offs stood a giant tree with a hollowed out center. It seemed like lightening may have struck it and burned out the center at the base because the inside walls were charred. I took some pictures of Ben standing inside and then asked him to take some of me. I went to walk inside and the sheer size of this tree and the fact that I was entering something not man-made that towered above the earth literally scared me! I’ve never reacted that way to a thing in nature before.

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Experiencing the redwoods was Ben’s favorite part of our whole trip.

Continuing to drive through the last stretch of redwoods, we did nothing but look out the windows in awe.

As we left Avenue of the Giants to drive on the 101, the scenes changed, but the drive was no less beautiful. I love California!

Ben and I needed to figure out where to go next.

Last year on our Cali trip, we had visited Anderson Valley Brewing. After we left, I received a tweet from their brewmaster, Fal Allen, who I didn’t know at the time. (I later Googled him and found out that he’s a beer badass!)

I’m pretty active on social media, and I promote my blog on every avenue. I’m not sure if he saw that I was a blogger or just that I was a beer geek who had just visited. But he tweeted me that next time I came in, to let him know and I could taste some fun not yet released and barrel-aged beers. I think I tweeted back that I was vacationing from the east coast and that I likely wouldn’t get to return.

Ben asked if I’d want to visit Anderson Valley again, and I said yes. He said I should reach out to Fal on Twitter to see if checking out some fun beers was still a possibility. I figured I had nothing to lose in asking, and didn’t really have any expectations.

Fal tweeted me back and said that he was around and said that I should stop in. So Ben and I set out on another beautiful drive through the rolling hills of beautiful northern California through wine country. The winding roads would have been better suited to my Volvo C30 than they were to our giant rental SUV! It was a fun drive, regardless.

We got to the tap room, which is in a separate building on the same property, and both ordered a beer. I tweeted a photo of my beer there, hoping that Fal would pop over and say hello and maybe chat with us for a minute or two. I had no clue we were set for hours of fun here!

And so my favorite part of our entire beercation started.

Fal walked in from the brewery a few minutes later. “Here. I brought this for you,” said Fal after he walked up to me, holding out a 22 ounce bottle of Huge Arker, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.

“Wow,” I immediately thought. That’s incredibly generous to give to someone you’ve never met. And this is what I love about the world of beer.

He asked Ben and me what we had tried so far. We told him we were on beer number one, and he humbly said he’d get us samples of everything as he headed behind the bar. He came back with a tray full of every beer they had on tap and sat down with us.

I told him that I’ve been obsessed with their watermelon gose ever since I tasted it last year at the brewery, when it was a test beer only on tap at the brewery. I explained that weeks before visiting last year, I had told Ben that I wanted to brew a watermelon gose. I said that I thought the combination of salt and watermelon was just itching to be explored, and I couldn’t believe that no brewery had tried one. I told him that tasting his was the highlight of my Anderson Valley visit last time.

I continued that I was ecstatic that the beer was just released in 22s the other month, and I immediately went to seek some out.

We tasted more and talked about his recipe ideation.

This couldn’t get better, I thought!

Wrong.

“Do you want to go on a tour of the brewery?” he asked. (You know what the answer was!) So we grabbed a beer and walked out of the taproom and into the brewery. He showed us their beautiful copper brewhouse. He explained that they used to polish everything, but at some point, decided to just stop. I thought it was fitting. These aren’t the shiny copper kettles at the pristine Sierra Nevada in Mills River, NC. Those kettles wouldn’t really fit in in Boonville. The brewhouse had its own beauty in the darkened copper with specks of green. They were almost like the majestic redwoods that had earned their place over time to be there.

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We walked to another building that housed the bright tanks and some other equipment. “Your beers are empty,” proclaimed Fal. “We’ll fix that.” And we were treated to cans of Briney Melon (that beautiful watermelon gose!) that were canned that day. Cans! I can’t wait to get cans of this in NC so I can have some all the time! And they’re the prettiest cans in all of craft beer, in my opinion!

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“Do you want to see this barrel room?”

“Yes!”

“Do you want to see this other barrel room?”

“Yes!”

We tasted beer from the barrels. Our glasses were never empty, and our taste buds couldn’t have been happier.

We walked back over to the tap room with Fal with some other fun beers to try. I remember at one point telling him he didn’t need to crack open those cool beers for us. He politely protested. “No. You guys are my VIPs.” He went on to explain that his girlfriend has Celiac’s Disease and can’t have wheat. We were sharing beers with him like we would share with the best of friends, cracking bottles that you save for special occasions.

We talked more about their funky experimental beers as we tasted some great treats, and he told us the story behind their Horse Tongue Wheat beer.

We chatted about the culture of youth today, and the fact that I bet my youngest sister had never used a pay phone. Boonville has their very own language known as Boontling. Fal told me that a pay phone in this language was called a buckey walter. We’re drinking AND we’re learning!

Boontling was an elaborate jargon developed in the relatively isolated community so that the locals could talk amongst themselves without being understood by others when others were present. The slogan “Bahl Hornin’” can be found on Anderson Valley’s bottles and cans. It means “good drinkin’.”

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I never expected we’d be received with such incredible hospitality there. It’s not hard to see why this was my favorite part of our whole vacation. Fal Allen embodies everything I love about craft beer. This isn’t just a drink. It’s a culture. A way of life. Anderson Valley Brewing is incredibly lucky to have such a down to earth and hospitable ambassador of their brand and brewmaster. I’m a fan for life. And I like to think that I made a new beer friend that day. Thanks for your insane generosity and for being a perfect example of everything I love about the craft beer culture and community, Fal.

Day 3 was a day of few visits. But with the argument of quality over quantity, there’s no comparison to how great that day was. It’s for sure a day I’ll never forget.

 

 

Beercation, Day 2 – Tillamook, OR: De Garde & More

We started day 2 of our beercation by driving west from Portland toward Tillamook. Our taste buds had been begging us to visit De Garde Brewing, and we were only an hour and a half away from there. So we mapped out a few other spots near De Garde and set out to explore for the day.

Ben was feeling a lot better. I got him some hotel toast and a banana for breakfast that morning, and I nommed on those amazing Voodoo Doughnut treats I got the night before. We chugged some Pedialyte and some water (hydration is key!) and set out to our first stop.

Pelican Brewery   

In the oceanside town of Tillamook sits a brewery with a pretty impressive resume of award winning beers. They brew some classics and quite obviously, do it very well. The tap room sits above and overlooks the brewery floor. There’s a small menu, and lots of that pretty well-known Tillamook cheese on it.It was a nice little stop. And we still had a little time to kill before De Garde opened, so while cheese was on our mind, we decided to stop by the Tillamook Cheese Factory, a few minutes down the road.

 
Tillamook Cheese Factory 

The building was big, but the parking lot was enormous! I couldn’t imagine that entire lot being filled with people visiting a cheese factory! But people do love cheese!

You take self-guided tours through the facility. It’s always cool to see some behind the scenes production. We ended our tour with a few samples and shopped for a few minutes in their massive gift shop that was full of local food items. I’m a sucker for those kind of stores, and somehow managed to get away with only a bottle of local buffaloberry honey and a bit of fudge. And for some reason, Ben thought it would funny if I bought a stress ball that was shaped like a brick of their wrapped cheese.  I now am the proud owner of a “cheesy” conversation-piece…

We left the cheese factory and grabbed a quick caffeine fix at a coffee roaster across the street before heading to De Garde to ensure we got there when they opened.
De Garde Brewing

Any time someone brings a De Garde bottle to a bottle share, you’d better believe all eyes are on that bottle. These are beers designed by beer geeks for beer geeks.

I saw a list online the other day that was one of those “You Might Be Too Big Of A Beer Geek If…” lists. Only going on “beercations” for vacations, flying Southwest to check your beer boxes as free luggage, and shopping for a home with suitable space for a beer cellar as a main priority were all ones I checked off on that list. But the owners of De Garde take the cake for the geekiest of beer geek things ever.

They literally researched the wild yeast in various coastal areas and chose where to live and build a brewery based on the local wild yeast character in the air. If that’s not fucking geeky, I don’t know what is.

Their tap room is pretty small with a few barrels as small tabletops, but there are a few other rooms off of the main room with a bit of extra seating. You can check out some beautiful foeders from one of these rooms. The space has some fun, earthy decor, and you could comfortably hang here for hours.

I don’t know what their typical crowd looks like, but in the almost hour we were there, there were only ever 2 or 3 more people in there aside from us and the bartenders. I like it like that. I expected it to be chaotic.

We each had a different American wild ale on tap (Grand Blanc – 4.75 and Foeder d’Or – 4.25) and split a bottle of The Purple (4.75). We bought a few bottles each of the beers they had available to take home. It made me sad to leave such a great place, but we had more breweries to explore.

I hope we meet again, Tillamook.
Block 15 Downtown Pub Brewery

 We met someone along the way who had mentioned Block 15 in Corvallis, and it was “on the way”, as we started to set south, so we figured, “Why not?”

We arrived to a crowded restaurant, put our name on the wait list, and each grabbed a beer at the bar. We felt like sardines in a can standing in the large restaurant with that crowd, so we ventured back outside of the restaurant to where there were a few picnic tables seated out front. It was pretty cold, but the 11.25% ABV Super Nebula Imperial Stout was warming us up!

“Hanger” (you KNOW it’s a real thing) started to set in, and we realized that the over an hour wait time wouldn’t cut it for us. I go from hangry to cold hard bitch in like 3 minutes flat. Google told us that Block 15 had a production brewey and tap room with snacks nearby, so that’s where we headed.  Quickly.


Block 15 Production Brewery and Taproom 
It was really busy here as well, but miraculously, we found 2 seats at the bar right away. We ordered a small meat and cheese tray and a beer cheese pretzel. Their snack game is on point! We drank some more fantastic beers here, grabbed a crowler and a bottle to go, and ventured to our last stop of the night.

It’s also notable that this location actually will fill kegs on the spot for people to take home!  I had never seen that before!
Ninkasi Brewing 

This Eugene, Oregon brewery is beautiful. It’s great in the dark. The lights are inviting, and the tall entrance beckons you to enter. Once inside, the ceiling is a couple stories high. A huge glass window shows you the enclosed courtyard, complete with a hypnotizing upscale, modern fire pit table. The beer geek in me was concerned for the rapidly rising temperature of the beers of the guests sitting there. But it does make for some beautiful scenery and photos. And this is why the beer gods made Instagram.

Ben and I were exhausted at this point. It was a long day, and that Pacific time zone had us in a time warp. We didn’t get to try much here, but it was worth the stop to check it out. It was time to check into the hotel and get some rest for what day 3 and California had in store for us!

Bullets2Bandages Bottle Openers

There’s one thing I’ve been passionate about long before beer came into my life. (Don’t worry; we’re still going to be talking beer here!)

I’ve always had a great love and respect for our nation’s military veterans. Both of my grandfathers were in the Navy, and at one point in my life, I actually entertained joining myself.

I grew up hearing my Pappy Wilson’s crazy stories of pranks he’d pull while aboard his destroyer. (He had some good ones! I think one involved lighting things on fire and dropping them in the ships’ trough-like toilets, so it would float down and light people’s butts on fire…) And I was (and still am) obsessed with anchors because I was always sorting through my pap’s extra naval uniform buttons. (I apparently was a simple child. It didn’t take much to entertain me!)

My other grandfather, my Pappy Jackson, was a man of few words. A Genesee from his fridge was the first beer I (accidentally) tasted. I always loved to write, and my pap got me into a patriotic speech/writing contest through his VFW post. I kept winning and having to present my speech over and over again, and it was great to spend time with my pap and the rest of those ass-kicking old vets!

And inevitably, I ended up marrying a Marine. With two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, I’m thankful to have him back and in the civilian world!

So what does all of this have to do with beer?

One day, while obsessively posting and checking out all things beer on Instagram, I came across a company called Bullets2Bandages when I saw an eye-catching image of a .50 caliber bullet bottle opener they had posted. They often posted images of Marine Corps inspired bottle openers, and one day, I decided to check out their website to see what this company was all about. I knew I needed one of these bottle openers for my husband! Because. Beer. And because. The Marine Corps.

I was fortunate enough to get to chat with the guys from Bullets2Bandages, and I found out that it was a company started in 2011 by two former officers in the Navy, Erik and Cole, who were looking for something to do when they got out.

They stumbled upon the idea of first making bullet necklaces when a 9mm round fell out of Erik’s gear and onto his dog tags. He posted a picture to Facebook and people wanted to know where they could get one. They had planned on only making a handful for what they thought would be a one-off fundraiser for a charity called the Travis Manion Foundation, honoring of one of their fallen friends who was killed in Iraq.

Things took off from there and Erik and Cole realized they had the makings of an actual business on their hands.

What I love about Bullets2Bandages is that their goal is to support veteran charities. They’ve donated at least 15% of their annual profits to veteran charities each year. In 2014, they actually donated more than 60%! Very badass.

They work a lot with the Travis Manion Foundation, and have donated thousands of medals for their 9/11 Heroes Runs. A full list of their charity partners is on their website.

Despite their start in jewelry, B2B now primarily makes bottle openers, and they’re made out of spent ammunition. And of course, they’re made in the good ol’ U.S.A. You can purchase openers as they exist on their website, or you can customize them.

They’re, of course, popular with military audiences. They get a lot of custom orders for Marine Corps Birthday Balls. And they’re pretty popular as groomsmen gifts, too.

And obviously, I had to ask the California-based Bullets2Bandages crew about some of their favorite beers and breweries. Modern Times made the “If I could only drink beer from one brewery for the rest of my life” list, and their Booming Rollers IPA was a favorite staple.

Stone’s “Enjoy By” IPA series and Black IPA series made the list, too. Other favorite breweries were Green Flash, Ballast Point, Council, Ironfire, Alpine, Knee Deep, Figueroa Mountain, and Firestone Walker. (Solid list, guys!)

All this talk about great CA beer is getting me excited for my annual Cali “beercation” in a little less than a month! (Yeah!)

There’s really not much I love more than beer. Our nation’s veterans are one of those few things I love more. I’m thankful that I grew up knowing some very inspiring veterans. And I’m extremely grateful for those veterans who are inspired enough to give back to fellow vets.

When I come across a veteran owned company that supports veterans charities AND has some badass beer geek things, what can get better than that?

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Happy New Beer! – Janee’s 2015 “Year In Beer”


			

Janee Farrar… Certified Cicerone®!

Merry Christmas to me! My goal for this year was to become a Certified Cicerone®, and I found out last night that I’ve joined the ranks!

It had been about 5 and a half weeks since I had taken the test (around the same time frame when I found out my results last time!), so I had been checking my phone for the email alllllllll day, thinking it had to be coming. The results come out of the Cicerone Program offices in Chicago, so they have an extra hour on this eastern time girl.

Last time, I got my email a little after 5 pm.

(The OCD in me was obsessively calculating!)

Five o’clock had come and gone, and it was time for me to get things in order for a work event at a restaurant with a cask tapping that started at 6.

I was at the restaurant and decided to glance at my email before I got things started. I guess my inbox hadn’t refreshed for a bit, despite my incessant checking, because several new emails popped up. I knew I was looking for an email from Chris Pisney. And there it was…

“Oh, fuck”, I uttered to myself.

I needed a second to prepare myself before I opened it. I decided right away to screenshot my inbox and send the picture to Ben before I calmed myself down and opened it.

When I added the image to the text, I spotted out of the corner of my eye an email 2 spots above tthe email from Chris Pisney…

An email with Certified Cicerone® logos!!!!!

I still hadn’t even cracked open my email! But this meant that I passed!

So I called allllll the people! I knew some others (distributor reps./friends) who had taken the test with me, and called them to tell them to check their inboxes! I know myself and at least 2 others (Hey, Bri!) passed!

I really couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present. I’m a Certified Cicerone®! Mission accomplished.
Now… what next?!

In The Beer Business & The Importance of Telling My Story

With a blog title like “WeBeerlongTogether”, you had to have known that it was only a matter of time before I joined forces with beer in my career path, officially giving beer authority of most of my waking hours. (And we all know I dream about beer, too, so there’s really no escape.) It’s been  4 months now.  And I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

After training, It was ten incredibly long weeks of 70-hour work weeks, living in hotels while myself and six others rolled out our beer to brand new territories covering the whole state of North Carolina as well as Eastern Tennessee.

I was fucking exhausted. I was literally waking up in the morning, selling beer all day, running to an event, and then sometimes another event right after it. And then I would get back to my hotel or my house, sleep, and repeat. But you know what? I didn’t have a single bad day at work. (Well, except for when I found out I failed my Certified Cicerone test…)

Rolling out beer to an entire state and a half and meeting a zillion new people a day who you have to build relationships with and constantly impress was incredibly exhausting. But it was even more incredibly rewarding.

I found myself smiling and being excited all the time. Seriously. I loved getting a hard sell. I loved getting an easy sell because people were honestly remarkably receptive to Devils Backbone coming into NC.  I loved learning from the distributors. I loved pushing a few of them to learn about us, too. Hell, I was still learning about us! (As I still am!) And I really enjoyed changing people’s minds when we gave samples of our beer to bar patrons.

These are my people. And this is where I belong. Devils Backbone has me drinkin’ the Kool-Aid.

I remember not long after starting this new job, a beer geek friend from back home asked me if he could still expect unbiased blog posts from me now that I was in the industry. I gave him my definite and resounding “Yes!”

I’ll give you all the long version, which is a resounding “yes” as well. (And you should know by now that even my short versions of things aren’t exactly brief. So, buckle up! It’s story time.)

I remember very clearly, during my last week in eighth grade (That’s right! It’s THAT kind of long Janee story!), our school guidance counselor (We’ll call her “Mrs. K.”) came to meet with our small class of 10  one last time. She had a survey for us all to fill out, and I suppose she wanted to impart her “guidance” on us one last time before we left our small school to head into the real world of high school. 

We had completed our surveys and were going over our answers out loud. The final question was read. “True or false? You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it.”

We all answered in unison, “True.”

“Wrong,” said Mrs. K. “Just because you want to grow up to be a doctor doesn’t mean that you’re smart enough to be one.”

Some of us started to argue, and Mrs. K. said, “Well what if you’re in a wheelchair, and you want to be a football player?” 

And just like that, our time with our beloved, chain smoking, absent-minded guidance counselor was up. I’m sure she continued on to lead, counsel, and inspire many…

I think we were all pissed. I knew she was wrong. I believe that with all of my heart and more importantly, my head, still today. If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen.

I would love to have Mrs. K. know that my husband’s friend lost both of his legs and, after that, decided he wanted to ride a bicycle across the United States. And he did. I really hope she’s not continuing to tell kids that the answer to that question is still false.

My takeaway from the story here is to be your own unstoppable person and to have your own voice. You can do anything you want to do if you want it badly enough and work hard enough to get it.

With that being said, what do we have if we don’t have a voice?

You will always hear my story. This my story with beer. That includes the good and the bad. That includes the Certified Cicerone test failure. And hopefully, it will include the Certified Cicerone test success soon! 

I take the test again on November 10th! (ONE WEEK AWAY!!!) That means I’ll likely find out right before Christmas if I passed. So pray to the beer gods that this time will be a success!

Back to the point of transparency, when I interviewed for my job, my post on Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial from this year came up. “You’ll be working side by side with people who distribute this beer. Budweiser essentially puts food on their table. Do you forsee that being an issue?”

I’ve had the incredible pleasure of working with a lot of people from a lot of different distributors. Devils Backbone works with Bud houses and with MillerCoors houses. These people are great people. Some of them won’t touch a Bud. Most of them will. And for some, that’s all that they drink.  

I’ve openly chatted with a few of these people about that blog post, in hopes to be transparent, to gain trust and hopefully, respect in the long run. It made me sad to hear that the few I talked to about the Budweiser ad were really hurt by the ad.

I walked into a restaurant with a distributor rep. named David from one of our Bud houses the other month to talk to the restaurant’s new beer buyer. After we introduced Devils Backbone to him, David was asked about the other brands the distributor could provide as the buyer explained that he wanted to migrate his inventory to be more craft beer focused. I enjoy these conversations, and often engage in support of some brands I love.

Goose Island was a brand that was mentioned, and the beer buyer said he wasn’t interested.

When David and I got back into his vehicle, he asked, “Why do you think he wasn’t interested in Goose Island?”

I think we both knew that the answer was because Goose Island is owned by AB InBev (Budweiser). AB InBev acquired  Goose Island several years ago, and they continue to purchase craft breweries. These breweries inevitably lose value in the eyes of some consumers.

This is the beer world we live in. We live in a world where buyers and distributors and brewery reps. alike are generally pretty cognizant of the world around them.

These distributors for the most part really want to see the good craft breweries excel. This is the future of their business. And that Budweiser commercial mocked all of those craft breweries. 

I’m glad I got the opportunity to be transparent and honest with a few distributor representatives about what could be a touchy subject. 

With that being said, I’ll continue to fight the good fight against”yellow fizzy shit”.  I won’t hold it against you if you’re drinking it. But expect that I’ll occasionally  challenge you. If that means putting a Devils Backbone Gold Leaf Lager into your hands, then awesome. If that means  introducing you to Shock Top (an AB InBev brand), then I’ll do that, too. And if that means cracking open a  vintage  barrel aged bottle I’ve been saving for year, then cheers, friend.

The world would be a boring place if we all just played it safe and didn’t challenge or  believe in anything. My goal has always been to never stop learning, and to share my love of beer with anyone willing to listen.

And now, you get to take the journey with me from inside the industry.

My new additional goal is to give you a picture of what that looks like.

I want to share with you that the three tier system isn’t just a necessary evil, as it often can be looked upon from the outside. There will always be advantages and disadvantages. (More on that later!)

I  want to talk to you about industry prejudices.

I want to let you know that relationships are one of the most important things in life, and I want to let you know how important these relationships are in the beer industry.  I spent an entire day  stocking  mostly Budweiser products in convenience stores  as I rode around with a distributor sales rep. in the market one day. One day when an account asks him if he has any good lager brands, hopefully the sales rep. will think of me and offer that account some Devils Backbone Vienna Lager.

I want to talk to you about industry camaraderie and how  fun it is to run into other brewery reps. in the market who share a mutual love and respect for beer.

I want to tell you that most of these encounters are great. And I want to tell you that for the one or two encounters outside the norm that have been bad, I’m actually thankful. We’re all ultimately competing  for  the same  space for our products. If you want to throw fuel on my sales fire, be my guest!

And I want to tell you how awesome it is to get to  do what you love every day. A few people in the industry have told me this exact same thing – If ever you come home from work and think you had a bad day, just remember, you get  to work in beer.

Stay tuned for what’s to come, friends. Cheers!

SAVOR 2015


SAVOR is a beer and food pairing event with a feel unlike anything else I’ve experienced in craft beer. This year and last, it was held in Washington D.C. at the National Building Museum.

Ben and I attended last year, not knowing what to expect. We had an amazing time, so we naturally planned to attend this year’s event.

It’s really a cool environment, even aside from being held in the beautiful National Building Museum, which already provides a great atmosphere.

It’s a little like a dressed up beer festival and a beer and food pairing dinner had a badass kid. It’s discernibly an event for foodies and beer geeks alike. You’ll see many people dressed up, but you wouldn’t feel out of place in jeans and your favorite brewery shirt either. They do take some fun red carpet photos once the event gets underway!Ben and Janee!

Tables form a bunch of little islands all over the event floor. Each island hosts 4 different breweries, and each brewery can showcase 2 different beers. Each beer has a food pairing picked specifically for the beer, and the bite-sized pairing sits on a large serving dish in front of where the matching beer is being poured. There are helpful signs at each station with each beer to tell you what food and beer are being paired there.

One of the things I love most about this event is that you usually have the opportunity to meet some incredibly badass people in the beer industry. Kim Jordan of New Belgium poured me a beer last year. And this year, I met one of my all-time favorite people in the industry, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calgione!

His beers truly got me into craft beer, and Dogfish Head remains one of my all-time favorite breweries because of that, the incredible beers they put out, their fantastic attention to detail and exploring history through beer. And Sam was even more awesome than I thought he’d be. A few people were asking him as he was pouring their beer to pause for a photo. I asked him if he’d mind photobombing a quick selfie in the background, but he insisted that I get someone to take a picture of the two of us. Very cool.

Ben and I attended one of the salons during (before) Savor. You have to buy tickets in advance, and there are typically a handful of salons each night at various times throughout the event. Last year we attended a kick ass beer and donut pairing with Stone Brewing’s “Dr.” Bill! (So much fun!) And this year we chose a salon on barrel aging in barrels with different spirits by Allagash. Definitely attend one of these if you have the opportunity. They provide an intimate, informative, and unique chance to talk to someone from a brewery in a very small group setting and ask questions.

This year, 76 breweries were at Savor. Lots of them bring brand new beers, and some bring some of their more rare and sought after brews.

Having sampled about 60 different beers (and definitely trying the food pairing with those that really impressed me), the best pairing of the night for me goes hands down to Hops And Grain Brewing’s Volumes of Funk: Sour Porter Culture paired with Beef Cheek & Oxtail Stew w/ Heirloom Carrot Butter Persillade. A brown porter in itself will highlight the stewed beef with its mild roastiness that comes from the malts in the beer. Caramel and toffee notes in the beer also match well with a beef stew. One of the most classic pairings in the world of craft beer is beef stew and a Flanders brown ale (a sour brown). So a soured brown porter makes a ton of sense to me.

Ben talked to one of the brewers at the booth about how he made the beer, and I remember it involved a long period of time adding Lacto at one point and Pedio at another and then seemingly doing 700 more things before the beer was finished. All of that hard work paid off in my opinion.

Some other cool little perks are the glasses they give you to keep (that you use to sample all night) and the fun parting gift of a 22 oz. bottle of beer brewed especially for Savor attendees. This year’s glasses were some nice Tekus, and the beer this year is called Philtimore, a pale ale brewed by Heavy Seas and Yards.

To learn more about this annual event, check out savorcraftbeer.com.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

This is not a post I wanted to write.

But this is my story. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t just skip over the bad parts.

I failed my first attempt at the Certified Cicerone test.

I went into it concerned that I hadn’t had enough time to study. I had a nightmare the night before I got my test results back that I got a 33%. I woke up the next morning and got ready for work. I was going back to the site where I took my test 5 weeks prior.

A couple of guys from the distributor (where the test was held and where I was working that day) had taken the test with me. I told one of them about my dream, and he said with confidence, ” We’re going to find out today.” I asked him how he knew, and he said he just felt like today was the day.

It was around 5:00 and I got a call from my co-worker who was riding with the guy who had taken the test. He said, “Check your email! Kevin passed!”

I was ecstatic for him! And my hands instantly began to shake. My email hadn’t come through yet. I knew they were sending around 20 emails with varying results.

I got off the phone and told another co-worker that I should be getting my results any minute. I was freaking out. I thought about calling Ben. But I figured I would wait the few minutes so I could call him to share the news.

My phone vibrated, and up popped the words “Cicerone Program”. This was the email. I took a deep breath, walked away from everyone, and opened it…

I had passed the tasting portion… But my overall score on the whole test was not high enough to pass.

I really can’t even begin to explain how that felt…

My excitement faded and my smile of anticipation and anxiety faded in slow motion into hazy eyes with restraint, trying not to look like an idiot in front of the people I was working with. I thought of my friend Michele saying, “Always be a robot” when we’d discuss having a bad day. 

I called Ben before I would let my emotions get the best of me. “Check your email”, I said, as I attempted to hide the devastation in my voice. 

Ben quickly said, “Did you get my text?”

I hadn’t looked or even noticed that I had one. I took the phone from my ear to look. 

“I PASSED!!!!!”, it read.

My eyes instantly filled with tears of happiness for him as I blurted out a, “Congratulations, babe! I’m so proud of you!”, before I lost it. And as soon as the first tear left my eye, the rest were fucking horrible and restrained tears of shitty saddness and devastation. 

Ben asked, still with excitement, “How did you do?”

I was silent. 

“Are you there?”, he asked.

I gathered enough breath to slowly get through telling him I hadn’t passed…

This is my life. This is what I fucking love with all my heart. And I wasn’t good enough to succeed. 

If you’ve ever seen the documentary “Somm” (about a group of people preparing for their Master Sommelier exam), I felt like that one guy who didn’t pass as he tearfullly pulled off a painful smile watching his friends be awarded the title.

I tried to pull my shit together to walk back over to my co-worker and the two people from the distributor we were riding with. 

I’m admittedly an emotional person. I remember a family dinner one night long ago where my dad was asked to describe me in one word. He chose, “emotional”. I instantly was offended. Then my dad explained. “That’s not a bad thing, Janee. Emotional doesn’t mean you’re a crybaby. It means you wear your heart on your sleeve, and whatever you feel, you feel whole-heartedly and with a lot of passion.” 

I can practice restraint in almost every case.

But this, to me, was actually heart-breaking. It was like being dumped. 

It didn’t matter that I had passed one portion. I almost didn’t even care.

I failed.

“I failed”, I kept thinking.

My team and I got into a car to go sell some more beer. It was the very last thing on earth I wanted to do at that point in time. I just wanted to bawl my eyes out.

After work ended, I drove a few minutes to a nearby restaurant where my husband was. 

I felt like a huge asshole. My husband accomplishes this awesome thing, and I don’t want to tarnish it for him. I decide to bawl my eyes out alone in my car after dinner on the half hour ride home.

Ben and I are big fans of the husband/wife high five. So I immediately walk in to join him at the bar and greet him that way and follow it up with a big hug.

I can’t describe well enough how incredibly happy I was for him. Shortly into our conversation, my smile broke into tears and I apologized, again telling him how happy I was for him and explaining that I didn’t want to take away from his happiness.

He’s come a long way with his consolation skills. Years ago, it would have been a mechanical “there there” pat on the back. But he was awesome and tried to make me laugh.

After dinner, I got into my car and bawled the whole way home on the phone with a friend.

The next morning, I woke up. I thought about feeling sorry for myself. But I literally thought of this one Barney Stinson meme that reads, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” And I just did that. And that day, I got to go back to my new job doing what I love. And it was a great day.

  
I needed to go through that shitty feeling. It wasn’t the end of the world. I wanted with all my heart to pass the first time. But I had less than 3 months of committed studying. I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I had wanted to be. And a good number of people have said that the tasting portion is the hardest to pass.

The only failures are quitters!

There’s a test at the end of August that I had planned to take if I failed, but that test is already full. There’s one in October that I think I can make it to instead. Work is going to be crazy for the next few months, and I’ll be working day and night. But I have a game plan to focus on my weak spots, and I’m going to pass!

I plan to retake the tasting portion, despite having passed it, because a better score on that can boost my overall score. Once you pass that portion, you’ve passed. So even if you fail at a second attempt, they take the better of your scores.

I’ll keep you posted. I’ll pass this test! Ben can’t be the only Certified Cicerone in this house for long!

One Should Always Be Drunk (How I Got A Job In Craft Beer)

“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters… But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.”

Passionate people, no matter what their passion, are some of my favorite people in this world.

At one point when I was younger, my passion was singing. I always had a voice, growing up. I had a beautiful voice. It was actually incredible… For a point in time, I actually thought about applying to Juilliard. (Nine percent of applicants actually got in! And I KNEW that I could if I applied myself.)

For a long time, I told myself that not pursuing that path in life was my being practical. But the truth is, if I had wanted it badly enough, I could have had it.

It never bothered me that I just quit singing (although I occasionally honor the wedding singer request as a favor to close friends and family). And I’ve never once looked back and thought, “What if I had pursued that?” Not once.

My thing was out there somewhere. I just hadn’t found it.

I loved to write. Maybe that was it?

I went to college intending to obtain a degree in Journalism.  I had an amazing college advisor who led me to get a degree in Communications instead. I’m so happy I went that route. I focused on Marketing. And I knew exactly who I wanted to work for… Sheetz – A family-owned company that was born right in my hometown.

I loved everything about their marketing campaigns, the incredibly fun and not too serious culture I perceived them having, and the continuity of creativity that I felt bled from everything that company did. My goal was to work in their Marketing department, almost from the moment I chose to get a degree in Communications.

I started in a store and worked my ass off. And I got that chance. I’m incredibly thankful that our Director of Marketing took a chance on me and finally gave me a job in their Marketing department! I was asked to interview for that position, and still I remember leaving the interview feeling certain I had failed.

I got the job.

Truly, nothing could have made me happier.

I found my home, and I found this crazy family of geeks (and I used that term with the greatest respect!) that I fit into.

I was the “Food and Beverage Field Project Technician” in my first role in the Marketing department. This was fitting. I was a bit of a foodie. And let’s not even get started on the “beverage” part! I was a lover of good beer.

If drinking in college could have earned me a degree, I would have my doctorate.

I didn’t start my illustrious drinking career loving good beer. But I was fortunate enough to have a few good friends to knock the Miller Lite out of my hands and to introduce me to something special. (Josh Beemiller and Sam Gillis… I hold you two mainly responsible, whether you know it or not.)

My love for beer grew and grew. Slowly at first. And then, it became this insatiable thing…

It was no longer about the getting drunk of college years. It was about being drunk with this insatiable thirst to learn more and more.

At work one day, I was chatting with one of my bosses about blogs. I never understood why someone would want to start a blog. It seemed like too open and personal of a thing for me to want to share with strangers. Blogs seemed like a lot of work with no real benefit. But… I did love to write… And I loved beer…

I suddenly was excited. I wanted to share this love I had for beer with others. I actually thought my husband wouldn’t be a huge fan of my sharing of our personal lives with the world. So I thought I would wait for the right time to approach him about it.

But I didn’t have to wait. That following weekend, Ben and I were at this awesome beer bar. We chatted with other beer geeks for hours there. When we were leaving, Ben and I were discussing how awesome it was to talk to those other people who loved beer just as much as we did. Ben told me I should start a beer blog.

And I did.

Starting this blog helped me learn and grow. It instilled this passion in me to want to share what I learn with others. Before I sat down to write my first blog post, I considered all things “marketing”. Who is my audience? What do I want to accomplish? How do I establish my brand? I love to write, but I kind of have the mouth of a sailor. Will that translate as passionate honesty and sincerity in my blog, or will I come off sounding like an asshole?

Fuck it; I’ll just be me.

It was the realest thing I’ve done. I know my father isn’t a fan of the language I occasionally use on my posts. But I hope that one day he’ll see that it’s not me trying to shock people… This is what I LOVE. I can articulate that love without swearing. But in the most passionate moments of your life, what kind of language do you use?

This is how I feel about beer.

I found it, finally. I found the thing in life that I love.

It sounds fucked up to people, I know. It’s just beer. Alcohol.

I know that not everyone understands how I can love a thing so much.

Beer. Beer, of all things.

I used to be a little harder and a little more defensive. But now, I don’t feel the need to explain.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love beer. It’s this incredible thing that we as humans get to formulate. It’s the most versatile beverage that exists. It can be whatever we want it to be. Beer tells a story. You can shut me in a room with a great beer, and I’ll relish the opportunity to peel away its layers and hear its story.

I want to share these stories with as many people as I can.

A few weeks ago, I had a choice to make. It’s the toughest choice I’ve made in my life, to date.

“A ship is safe at harbor. But that’s not what ships are for.” I saw this on Twitter while trying to make my decision. It’s a quote I’ve always liked. Oddly enough, some insightful drunk chick penned it in Sharpie on the stall door in the bathroom of one of my all-time favorite craft beer bars…

I wasn’t built to be anchored at shore, even if that place is safe and comfortable.

I was offered a craft beer job.

A craft beer job!!! And in marketing! For a brewery I already thought very highly of!

After a lot of consideration, and literal tears in my beers looking for the right answer, I found it.

Beer is my thing. And that was my answer.

I accepted a position with Devils Backbone Brewing as their North Carolina Craft Adventure Coordinator!

Leaving a company and family I love so much is incredibly difficult. I was given incredible opportunities there that I will forever be grateful for. Those people will always be my family. And I’m grateful for all of their encouragement and support.

I encourage you all to find the thing in your life that makes you happy. And do that. If you do what you love for a job, you’ll never work a day in your life. And you’ll be as rich as you need to be. Find that thing that makes you inexplicably happy. And go for it.

The Certified Cicerone Test

A few days after taking the Certified Cicerone test, I still have no clue what just happened to me! They said they’ve recently been getting test results out around 4-6 weeks after the test. So I’m starting this horrible waiting game!

I went from feeling confident while filling out the first 5-6 pages of the test, to feeling like I knew nothing filling out the next few pages that I left speckled with blanks to return to, to feeling great after taking the tasting portion. When I left the exam, I was feeling that it could go either way. I got home and immediately pulled out my note cards to verify that I had answered certain questions correctly. Another roller coaster of feeling good and bad. And it slowly turned to bad. I put away my notecards, not wanting to discover that I had answered anything else wrong.

I couldn’t concentrate.

That night, pretty certain that my husband was asleep, I said, “Ben? Are you awake?”

I heard a sleepy, “Yeah.”

I followed it up with a, “What was the answer to this one?!”

I had only gotten half of it correct.

I awoke the next morning not feeling much better.

I started to feel that I had answered one of the essays incorrectly, but I didn’t even want to look up the style guidelines for the answer. Several hours later, my OCD got the best of me, and I looked. I felt great!

For at least the past 24 hours, I’ve remained confidently certain that I had A SHOT at passing. So I’m going to do my best to stick with that!

As most of you know, I’ve been studying for this test for quite some time now. I’m far more knowledgeable now than I was even at this point last year. There’s so much to learn. And the more I learn, the more I know I’ll never stop.

I knew I wanted to take the test this year. Three months ago, my husband texted me telling me an exam date had just popped up in our area. I was like a kid on Christmas. That was what I needed to hear. I immediately created a spreadsheet to log my hours of studying each day, and I immediately started making notecards and started reading my beer books with a renewed purpose.

I knew that I wanted to write about my experience to try to help others interested in taking the test as best I could. The obsessive tracking of hours started to get to me after several weeks, especially when I spent an entire day without studying. Eventually, I threw away the spreadsheet and just focused on trying my best without killing myself. (Just kidding. I didn’t throw it away. I’m OCD. Remember? The point is that I discontinued logging hours and tormenting myself when I missed an entire day or days of studying.)

Ben had intended to take the test, too.

About a month before the test, I started to have doubts that I would be ready. I went home to tell Ben, and he beat me to the punch. I told him I felt the same way, and he argued, saying, “No. You’re ready.” So I buried myself further in notecards, books, and obviously, beers.

Ben and I registered for the test. The days passed quickly. And there we were. Sitting in front of the local distributor where the test was being administered. A guy in the car beside us was speeding through notecards. Ben and I wondered how many people would be taking the test with us. We made a pretty fair bet that there wouldn’t be any other married couples in there!

There were about 20 of us. All of them in the industry except for Ben and me. Most of them were taking the test for the second or third time. And there was only one other woman.

So let’s talk about what a Cicerone actually is!

There are 3 levels in the Cicerone Program. The first is a Certified Beer Server. The second is the Certified Cicerone. And the third is the Master Cicerone. In the proper use of these terms, Certified Beer Servers cannot call themselves “Cicerones”. This is reserved for the Certified Cicerones and Master Cicerones. They’re typically to be referred to as a “Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Program”.

People in the beer industry know what a Cicerone is. And a lot of geeky beer geeks know, too. But it’s something I often find myself explaining to the rest of the world. To inquiring minds, I explain it in its basic sense as a Sommelier, but for the beer world. The Cicerone program has become the industry standard in certification programs. It’s basically a certification that you have extensive knowledge of all that is beer. I’ll sometimes describe it as a type of “beer expert”, but I think that phrase is best reserved for Master Cicerones. And I think the minute you think of yourself as an expert, you’ve done a disservice to yourself. There’s so much to learn!

Master Cicerones are expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all that is beer. There are only 9 Master Cicerones in the world! I hope that one day I would be ambitious enough to take that on. But I definitely don’t have a plan to accomplish that at the moment! First things first! I have to pass the Certified Cicerone test!

There are currently only 1,788 Certified Cicerones in the world. (I’m hoping that number grows by at least 2 in the next few weeks as they grade Ben’s and my exams!)

For the Certified Beer Server exam, it’s just a timed test you take online. The other 2 tests are taken on site at a beer venue in locations all across the world, with the majority being offered in the U.S. The Cicerone Program usually offers a handful of tests each month in one specific location on each date. Some people will actually fly to a location just to take the test. (I would have if there wasn’t one offered that was just half an hour away. The tests are often offered in cities or states that are big in the beer world. The Cicerone offices in Chicago host tests very often.)

Around 200 people become Certified Cicerones each year. One in three people at each exam fail the test, making this harder to pass than the bar exam! And those statistics may have changed some since an outside party last published them.

It’s a little pricey to take, but certainly affordable if you’re passionate about beer. If the test was cheap to take, I’m sure there would be far more attempts and far more failures. I feel the price is very reasonable in comparison.

The test is broken down into 2 main portions: a written portion and a tasting portion. (There is also a small portion of the test where you’re asked to demonstrate a capability, most often related to beer service or describing cleaning a piece of the draft system, and this is video recorded and grouped with the written portion.)

If you pass one portion, you don’t have to retake it, and you just pay a smaller amount to retake the portion you didn’t pass.

The written portion is 3 hours long and is comprised mainly of fill-in-the-blank questions. There is no word bank. There’s no way to really guess your way through it. You truly have to have a great understanding of all things beer. There were several small matching portions with word banks from which to choose, but you can’t count on those few parts to be your saving grace.

An old version of the Cicerone test is posted on the cicerone.org website and is available to registered users. It shows one of these word bank questions to be about matching beer glasses with the appropriate styles of beer. Take that for what it’s worth.

I had planned to divulge as much information as possible after the test to help people who were considering taking the test. However… before the test, you sign a waiver that says you won’t divulge any explicitly detailed information about the exam. Doing so can be cause to be stripped of your certification.

With that being said, I just can’t answer all of the questions people have. But I can definitely break the test down a little bit and point out some important things to know. I also very highly recommend that anyone interested in taking the Certified Cicerone test purchase a study guide from thebeerscholar.com. Chris Cohen, who wrote that particular study guide, did so independently of the Cicerone Program. Both Ben and I found it to be very helpful. It also comes with notecards that aid in pounding the info into your head! I carried those with me all the time.

Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer is a MUST read. I read it for the first time a while back and felt that it was a good bit over my head. But you retain some of that knowledge. And as you study more, you find yourself going back to Tasting Beer to reference things. It’s really the most conclusive reference material for all things beer – from history, to ingredients, to brewing processes, to styles, glassware, etc. After reading other books and Chris Cohen’s study guide, I reread this book. And it alllllllllllll made sense. It was no longer over my head. Instead, it was this awesomely cohesive gelatin that formed fragments of knowledge together. I absolutely recommend this as a reread right before the test as well, even if you skip parts you’re more familiar with.

The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein is a little more approachable than Tasting Beer. I picked it up after having read Tasting Beer feeling little overwhelmed. Bernstein has a really approachable take on everything. And parts of his book were particularly helpful to me! There are some good nuggets in there.

Included in the written portion of the test (which is 20 pages long, FYI) are 3 long essay questions. These questions are worth substantially more, and doing well on them is important. I feel very confident about my answers for all three of them! That may be my saving grace!

These are graded subjectively. I know I missed naming a particular yeast in one essay. And it kills me, because I had a dream about that yeast’s note card the week before the test! I have it permanently stored in my head, and for some reason, I just didn’t even think to write it. (If you’re dreaming about yeast note cards, I say you should automatically pass the test. Just my opinion.)

I know I missed a few opportunities for all of the points on the essays here or there for reasons I won’t go into, as it may be easy to figure out what the essay question was, but I feel really good about my answers in general!

There were around 150 questions plus the essays. It took me all 3 hours for this part of the test, though Ben actually finished first, with maybe 45 minutes to spare.

There is always a section on the test about food and beer pairings. In this section, we were asked to pair a beer with a very specific dish. Ben and I were discussing the pairing after the test and he asked me what I had paired with it. We both not only chose a saison, but chose the exact same beer, Brewery Ommegang Hennepin, to pair with the dish. Good choice! (If you struggle with food and beer pairings, or just love learning more about food and beer, Garret Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table is a beautiful read! I didn’t read the whole thing yet. But it’s truly a beautiful book!)

I also feel good about the tasting portion of the test. You have to get a 70% or higher to pass the tasting portion. There are 12 questions. The tasting portion is broken down into 3 parts, and you have 45 minutes, which is more than enough time to complete this portion. There are 3 sets of 4 beers.

The first set involves off-flavors. You were given a control beer, and then asked to determine which beer in the group of 4 matched the control. Then you had to choose the off-flavors in the other 3 beers from a list.

The next set presents 4 different beers for which you have to choose the correct style. There will be 2 styles listed that are pretty closely related, and you must choose one.

The last set also involves off-flavors. But these 4 beers are presented to you along with the name of the beer style and brand, and you are asked to determine if the beer is fit to serve. If the answer is no, you have to name what is wrong with the beer and what caused the problem. This last set is worth half of the tasting grade, as it involves more detail and multiple parts in the answer.

The tasting portion was administered last and in a group setting. Each person had their own table with their beers and test paper in front of them. Obviously, discussion was not allowed. (It’s noteworthy that we did get bottled water and were offered saltines for the tasting if we wanted them.) At the end of the test, the proctor told us the answers to the tasting portion, even down to naming the exact beer that was used in the style delineation.

Again, I was kicking myself! I could remember my choices for the middle set of 4 and the last set of 4, but I couldn’t remember the exact order I placed the first 4 in. I got the naming of the styles section all correct and missed 1 of the 4 in the last set, which I’m still beating myself up over. I doubted what I thought I initially tasted, but I stuck with the whole “go with your first reaction” thing. If I had just answered that correctly, I would know right now that I had passed the tasting portion.

From the first set of 4 beers, I know that I got the second beer correct and the fourth beer wrong. I named the correct things for the other 2 beers, but didn’t remember if I had reversed them. So it’s killing me to not know.

Ben and I had 2 off-flavor tasting kits (we purchased one through the Cicerone Program). These helped IMMENSLEY. It’s one thing to think you know what creamed corn (DMS) would taste like in a beer; it’s another to actually be able to pull that taste from a beer. Plus, that off-flavor can also taste like cooked vegetables or green beans to some people. It tastes more like green beans to me! So if I was blindly searching for creamed corn, I would have been out of luck!

In our own off-flavor tastings, we discovered what flavors were difficult for each of us to pull out. I had the most problems with detecting acetaldehyde, and Ben struggled with diacetyl. (Geeks!) In our first off-flavor tasting, I only got half of the flavors correct. In the second, I nailed them all. So I highly recommend any prospective test-takers purchase an off-flavor kit. These are pretty pricey. But all that time you spent preparing for the test is extremely valuable, too! And you’re also forking over a chunk of change to take the test. So just splurge and order an off-flavor kit.

I could show someone what diacetyl and acetic acid taste like in a beer for free if they wished! These two flavors combined equal a draft line infection. Yum! The very first beer Ben and I had after our exam (at a local place to remain unnamed) was poured by some definite offenders of not cleaning their draft lines! That beer was extremely different from what it should have tasted like. And it makes me sad to know that some people will judge that brewery and their beer based on that flavor caused by the negligence of a bar.

The test requires the previously stated 70% or higher score on the tasting portion, and a score of 80% overall.

Being that it was my goal for this year to become a Certified Cicerone, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure I accomplish that. I took the test on June 15th. The only other test scheduled through the beginning of next year within a day’s drive back and forth of my home is on August 31st in Virginia. So… I took a break from studying for a few days, and I’m back at it again! If I fail a portion of or all of this test, I want to be prepared to take it again! I’ll keep you posted!