The Beer Academy has been training people in the appreciation of beer for more than a decade. Since 2003 more than 10,000 people ranging from licensees, bar staff, budding brewers, beer buyers, journalists and enthusiasts have completed a course or attended a tasting or talk.
For those working in the trade, having at least a basic knowledge of beer – how it is made, its history and the different styles available – is a prerequisite. The beer boom means consumers are more interested in what they are drinking than ever before so those stocking and selling beer must try and stay ahead of the curve.
Having customers at the bar with greater knowledge about beer than those responsible for serving it is a dangerous place to be for pub retailers. So the Beer Academy offers a relatively low cost route for businesses to train their employees.
Three members of the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s editorial team took a day out of the office to road test the academy’s Foundation Course - originally developed for those who work in breweries and pubs but a great introduction to the world of beer for novices and enthusiasts alike.
Our fellow delegates in the classroom at the London HQ in Southwark, near London Bridge included those from fledgling brewers, pubco head office staff, independent pubs and would-be-brewers.
The course, which is City & Guilds Accredited at NVQ Level 1, includes all-important taste training, a section on beer and food matching; beer styles and the brewing process. Tutor Nigel Sadler, a brewer and beer sommelier himself, emphasised the importance of taking notes as a multiple choice exam awaited us at the end of the day.
The day kicked off with a little about the ingredients of beer, some malted barley tasting, hop rubbing and the amazing range of flavours they can generate. “Beer is a complex product and should be appreciated as such,” said Sadler.
“I don’t believe that beer should be treated any differently to wine and must be shown respect.”
We then moved on to discover in more detail the three beer ‘families’: ales, lagers and lambics and, in turn, the many styles within these.
There are now more than 1,600 breweries in the UK, brewing all manner of different and abstract styles. Most brewers are proud to detail what goes into their beer, which is good for bar staff as it gives them a starting point in the conversation with customers.
“The Beer Academy is trying to get people to reengage and enjoy beer again,” said Sadler.
After hearing a little about how beer is made, we were starting to get thirsty so thankfully the course moved on to the principles of beer and food matching. We tasted four different beers; an American light lager, German-style pilsner, traditional British strong ale and Belgian fruit beer – all matched with food that complemented their flavours well.
Food matching is something that Sadler wants to see more pubs embrace. “I’d like to see pubs have beer lists with specific recommendations alongside the traditional wine list.”
Post-lunch we moved on to discover in more detail about the brewing process and the art and science that goes into creating our national drink. The day’s formalities concluded with a brief look at beer consumption in the UK and across Europe, alongside some of the challenges the industry currently faces,
Then came the exam. An online multiple choice assessment with roughly 20 questions to answer based on what we had learnt during the day. It wasn’t too taxing (very few people fail it) and thankfully all three of us from the PMA passed. After saying our goodbyes we headed to the pub for further exploration of the category.
The following week we all received our certificates in the post marking our achievements. I’ve not yet framed and hung mine on the wall, but it at least records the fact I passed the course and have begun my beer education journey.
What we thought
Overall we all felt it was a valuable and informative experience, and particularly useful for those with limited knowledge of the category.
PMA reporter Emily Sutherland said: “For a complete beer novice, the Beer Academy course gave me a useful grounding in to the nation’s favourite drink, explaining how different beers are made, how they should be paired with food and why certain beers have proved so popular.
“Tutor Nigel Sadler’s obvious passion and knowledge rubbed off on everyone taking the course, and he made sure everyone felt comfortable asking questions, no matter how complicated. Any last minute nerves about the exam were soothed when I found I knew the answer to almost all the questions, proving I really had learnt something.”
For more information go to www.beeracademy.co.uk
Training offered by the Beer Academy
- Beer Steward: An entry-level online course which enables bar staff to gain a sound understanding of the basics of beer
- Foundation: one day introduction to beer, including beer styles, brewing process and history and some beer and food matching
- Advanced: two day course designed to enhance delegates’ understanding , distinguish between beer styles and equip them to construct beer lists and beer and food menus
- How to Judge Beer: one day course designed to help delegates identify beer styles, spot key flavour faults and judge beers against the appropriate style criteria.
- Beer Sommelier accreditation: awarded to individuals with a significant depth of knowledge of beer styles and beer and food matching. Candidates must have completed all previous courses and are assessed via written application followed by interview at the Beer Academy.