With craft beer being sold in more places, it's great to see a new initiative aimed at educating people on the subject. Last month, The Brewers Guild of New Zealand announced the nationwide rollout of its new NZQA-listed "Brewers Guild Certificate in the Craft of Beer".
Overseen by the Hospitality Standards Institute, the one-day course is targeted primarily at people looking to join the hospitality and beer retailing industries, and those already working in them.
On its website, the Brewers Guild commends the course to hospitality employers wishing to upskill their staff: "The increasing growth of ‘craft/boutique' beers within the beer sector means that the education of you and your staff is becoming more and more important. They should know what they are serving to customers."
I couldn't agree more. For years I've complained about the lack of formal beer education available in New Zealand and the poor understanding of beer exhibited by many so-called hospitality professionals. In my experience, your average bartender or restaurant waiter is more likely to be able to make 10 different types of coffee, or know which wine pairs best with each dish on the menu, than have even the most basic understanding of the beers they serve. It would be helpful, for example, if all frontline retail and hospitality staff knew the difference between a pilsener and a pale ale - a difference that's as fundamental as that between a chardonnay and a shiraz!
The new one-day workshop comprises three NZQA-approved unit standards. The first gives students an appreciation of beer's heritage and a basic understanding of beer styles and flavours, while the second deals with the principles of matching beer with food. The third deals with beer storage and dispensing systems and the serving of beer. The course also includes a visit to a local craft brewery for a hands-on look at the brewing process and concludes with a taste test in which six different beers are served and evaluated. The cost of attending is $300 plus GST.
Professionals aside, looking at the schedule I'd have thought the qualification would appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in craft beer. I'm supporting the project and have signed up to be trained as an educator for the Nelson Marlborough region.
Following pilot courses last year in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, 26 people have already gained the qualification. One of those is Lisa Parker, who owns Liquorland stores in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.
With no knowledge of craft beer before taking the course, she is now one of its strongest advocates. Parker's stores now offer huge selections of craft beers and she has run two successful beer festivals in the Tauranga area.
Both events included beer and food-matching seminars.
Beer education will also be a major feature at this year's Great Kiwi Beer Festival, (GKBF) which returns to Christchurch's Hagley Park on February 23. The festival will include a series of six beer-themed seminars and tastings hosted by the city's well-known craft beer pub, Pomeroy's.
A presentation by popular Dunedin brewer Richard Emerson on "The science of brewing" is bound to be well attended and will be followed by another called "How to get the most from your beer", presented by Wellington beer blogger Phil Cook. Brewers from Epic (Auckland), ParrotDog (Wellington) and Tuatara (Kapiti) will be giving tutored tastings and I'll be teaming up with Canterbury cheesemakers Barry's Bay for a seminar on beer and cheese- matching.
Meanwhile, the Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) will be hosting hourly "meet the brewer" sessions at the GKBF, during which Kiwi craft brewers will be on hand to talk about their work and answer questions.
The SOBA tent will also be a gathering place for members and potential new members, in a region which has a rapidly growing and vibrant craft beer scene.
"Meet the brewer" sessions will also be an integral part of this year's Summer Beerfest in Blenheim on February 3. Seven breweries from the top-of-the south will be pouring their beers at Drylands Estate winery (237 Hammerich's Rd, Rapaura) and brewers from each will take turns explaining their work and discussing their beers.
Then on April 6, at Nelson's Founders Historic Park, MarchFest will include home brewing demonstrations and brewer-led tastings, as well as a tutored five-course beer and food matched lunch.
- The Marlborough Express