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What is a Beer Connoisseur?

(Issue 23)

Connoisseur. It’s a difficult word to pronounce correctly, let alone spell. Is it two “s’s” and one “n?” Is there an “a” in there? And it doesn’t help that it’s a French word – if you’ve ever heard someone try to pronounce monsieur without sounding ridiculous, you know what I’m talking about.

The word’s dictionary definition, however, leaves little room for ambiguity. A connoisseur is “an expert judge in matters of taste.” While this definition works perfectly as a descriptor for the expert judges who rate beers for us every day, it seems a bit one-dimensional when it comes to craft beer fanatics.

Sure, I like making judgments about beer as much as the next Master Cicerone or Grand Master IV BJCP expert, but sometimes I just want to sit back with a hefty brew and ponder life’s complexities. Why are we here? Why did they create a sequel to Full House? Most importantly, what is a beer connoisseur?

When you hear the word, what image does your mind conjure? Is it just a word, or is it more of a way of life? We posed this question to industry professionals, craft beer enthusiasts and ourselves.

Read on fellow connoisseurs, and discover for yourselves.



Katy Tilley (DESTIHL Brewery Ambassador)

“For me, it equates to a sense of adventure – collecting sensory experiences through flavor profiles like Indiana Jones collects priceless artifacts. The excitement of a satisfying brew, falling into off-flavors – these experiences belong in the museum of your mind! Being a beer connoisseur requires an open mind and a discerning palate. It is a never-ending search for delicious beer antiquities.”

 


Sean Coughlin (expert judge at BeerConnoisseur.com) – “Being a beer connoisseur is more than being a beer enthusiast. While both may be consumed by all things beer all the time, the connoisseur will be able to make the distinction between a great beer and a world-class beer that you should plan a vacation around. This capability comes through sensory development, palate awareness, and being a student of all things beer: history, current and future trends are all important. A true connoisseur will appreciate a well-brewed macro American Light Lager for what it is and can validate its worthiness as much as a well-made Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve barrels. A connoisseur does not discriminate or let their personal feelings get in the way. Being cognizant of the immense complexity of beer and journeying on a never-ending quest for more knowledge is a key component of connoisseurship. However, sharing this knowledge and passion of beer with others is the essential component. Cheers to all the beer connoisseurs who celebrate world-class beer (be it imperial stout or American lager), share their insights with others, and raise the bar across the beer industry.”


Ale Sharpton (beer blogger and craft beer personality) – “A beer connoisseur learns to discover how different beers complement various types of cuisine and recognize how beautifully complex a beer can be – along with the various flavors it can emulate.

Also, a beer connoisseur recognizes the importance and functionality of glassware, the proper temperatures at which to store beer, and conversely, the clues to when a beer is off due to numerous factors such as temperature, light, infection and storage.

Lastly, a beer connoisseur respects those who brew beer, the packing team, marketing team as well as the writers who promote the craft!”

Photo Credit: Hannibal Matthews


Joel Armato (National Sales Operations Manager at New Holland Brewing Co.) – A beer connoisseur places value in quality, flavor and experience. They know there are lesser options, yet they choose more. That choice alone opens door upon door of adventure and friendship.

Behind one door lies the ingredients and process that go into every glass of beer they drink. Behind another are the hard-working people and personalities that make enjoying beer so rewarding. A beer connoisseur knows that the first sip is for themselves and all those that follow should echo out to the people around them to spread the good word of good beer. Spreading the word and sharing beer is essential to perpetuate this thing that we all love so much, which is the quality, flavor, and experience that drew us in in the first place.


John C. Tull (expert judge at BeerConnoisseur.com) – “A beer connoisseur is someone who picks up a glass of beer and smells it before they drink it. It is someone who looks at the color, texture and head to compare that with the qualities they experience in their mouth. It is someone who strikes up a conversation with a complete stranger to help guide them to a beer they might enjoy based on a few questions and a long list of beers on the menu. A beer connoisseur gets excited to discover new flavors and aromas in unique combinations in an endless and enjoyable quest for the perfect beer.”



Hugh Sisson (founder of Heavy Seas Beer)
 – “In my opinion, a true beer connoisseur is someone who has a genuine enthusiasm for the product, takes the time and makes the effort to learn about different styles, comes to understand what they personally like (and don’t like – this is subjective after all), and then doesn’t become a judgmental jerk trying to impress everyone with how much knowledge they have. In other words, a positively-focused, educated enthusiast – not a pedantic beer Nazi!”

 


 

Greg Papp (brewmaster at Tallgrass Brewing Co.) – "As a professional brewer, being a beer connoisseur takes on a lot of different meanings. It's much more than being a Cicerone, having a vast collection in your basement, being able to describe the difference between Saaz and Simcoe hops or spending your vacation traveling the world in search of amazing beer. All of those are wonderful, but it goes further than that. 
 
It's about having a vast knowledge of the science and business of brewing, a respect for the industry, a respect for the past and the ability to look toward the future. It's about paying your dues, learning from your mistakes and being a professional. It's a never-ending addiction that keeps all senses on alert 24/7 and an underlying devotion to the past, present, and future of our craft."

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