On Friday, September 18th after several years of researching, studying, writing, and, ermm, drinking beer, I finally got my Beer Sommelier certification from the prestigious Beer Academy--an arm of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling--in London. I'm very proud to join the ranks of some of the best beer people out there  and super excited to be Beer Hawk's actual-on-piece-of-paper beer sommelier.

Having no idea what to expect going in to the assessment, I have to admit that I was a bundle of nerves on the train down to London. I didn't know if I was going to have to taste a million beers and say which breweries they came from. Was I to brew a beer from grain to glass in two hours? Define "Craft?" Recite Voltaire?

Without compromising the integrity of the test, I won't give all the beery details. I will say, however, that it wasn't as simple as sitting around and getting hammered--although that would've been awesome. I had to explain bits of my portfolio of evidence which was followed by tasting and style identification. Likewise, I had to show evidence of understanding where specific components of a beer came from. And some off-flavors made an appearance (delicious...) Pretty much it was a bit more than an hour and a half of beer-talk.

Besides becoming a member of a relatively elite club, another good thing came out of the assessment: I found where my weakness is. While I'm quite good at beer pairing and understanding the brewing process, I'm a little weak in some of my style identification. While I was spot-on with a good number of them and in the ballpark of a handful of others, I completely blew it on a couple of them. I wish I could tell you how bad I blew it but let's just say I got a good mocking from my "dear friends" when I told them what I missed. They're so supportive.

Despite my doofus misstep--and never being able to look at a couple of these beers the same way again--the fact of the matter is, of course I'd make some mistakes. This is a lifelong learning process and one that doesn't stop with a shiny new beer sommelier badge. While I feel as though this accomplishment is a validation for all of the hard work I've done to date, it is also a passageway into the even bigger world of beer. And I'm so happy that I get to make the voyage--on my own, and with the great crew here at Beer Hawk! Cheers!