What is a beer sommelier?

The Beer Sommelier accreditation programme began in 2011 and is run in the UK by The Beer & Cider Academy, which is a part of the IBD (Institute of Brewing & Distilling).

To be accredited you need to have completed and passed the Beer Academy’s How to Judge Beer, its Foundation Course and its two-day Advanced Course and be able to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding and experience of beer through a portfolio of evidence which shows how you know what you know!

If you can manage all that you can apply to sit the 90-minute viva voce/oral exam during which you will be thoroughly tested on your beer tasting abilities, beer knowledge and beer and food matching prowess.

Beer & food matching is a key part of being a beer sommelier
Beer & food matching is a key part of being a beer sommelier

But what do you do all day?

The concept of a Beer Sommelier is still quite new, but there is growing interest in the idea and the role. Here in the UK many of us are essentially ‘beer ambassadors’ – sharing our expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm to promote beer as drink to be taken seriously rather than just necked thoughtlessly.

We talk about beer and host tastings and events aimed at bringing beer to everyone; from those who have never tried it or know little about it, to people who already enjoy it but would like to know more, on to those who love beer and enjoy nothing more than time spent in the company of others who feel the same way, sharing their favourite drink.

Beer and food matching is another a big part of what we do. Teasing out the right flavours and textures to put beer and food together to the most delicious effect whether it’s for a tasting event or providing suggested pairings for a menu or a special meal.

We also work within the industry helping people to improve and expand their beer knowledge so they can make the most of beer for their business and their customers.

My beer sommelier story…

I was the first woman* in the UK to be accredited as a Beer Sommelier and just a year later the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group awarded me Beer Sommelier of the Year 2013. I am honoured to receive such an accolade from a Group which exists,

“To promote the wholesomeness and enjoyment of beer and the unique role of the pub in UK society; to increase understanding of the social, cultural and historic role of brewing and pubs in the UK and their value to tourism; to broaden recognition of the contribution of brewing and pubs to employment and to the UK’s economy; to promote understanding of the social responsibility exercised by the brewing and pub industries; to support the UK’s brewing industry worldwide; and to promote a positive future for beer and the pub.”

What can a beer sommelier do for you?

A beer sommelier can help you make the most of beer. Here’s a flavour (pun intended!) of the sort of work I do…

If you’re in the business of selling beer but feel the need to boost your beery abilities an experienced beer sommelier can help you expand on what you know and grow your confidence in sharing that knowledge so your customers get the best experience and you get to sell more beer.

Enthuse your staff . Everyone involved in selling or serving beer should be able to talk about how it tastes to some degree. They may not love it – but they can take pride in having the skills to describe it. Memorable beer tasting and beer and food matching workshops hosted by a beer sommelier are an ideal way to get your team thinking about flavour and how to talk about it.

What to stock and how to match it with food?  An accredited beer sommelier can advise on putting together beer menus and beer & food pairings.

Entertaining with beer? A beer tasting is a great way for businesses to entertain clients at corporate events or as part of a hospitality package; or for private individuals to book for celebratory events such as a landmark birthday or anniversary.

Beer sommeliers love beer and – to be honest – they want everyone else to love it too. The more people that get to taste beer and understand a little bit about it the bigger the beer fan club grows – and that’s good news for beer-lovers, brewers and all those who sell beer.

Get in touch to see how I can help you and your business make the most of beer.

Here's to beer!
Here’s to beer!
  • Find out how to become an accredited beer sommelier here. 

*A number of other women have qualified since I was accredited, including Annabel Smith who sat her exam the same day as me but not until the afternoon. By which time I was already in the pub celebrating my results 😉