El Segundo Brewing Company’s Tom Kelley and a finely crafted beer. Photo by Brad Jacobson
by Thomas Kelley
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, my answer is generally something about owning part of a small brewery. Their response is generally, “Oh… so you are a Brewmaster?” To which I then reply that, in fact, I am a Cicerone.
This opens up various lines of conversation ranging from, “Did you say you were a Sissy?” to “Oh… so, you don’t brew beer?” And eventually I end up explaining it best I can. But at the end of the day, they still think I am a Brewer. I suppose it is only a slight difference in my position. I speak with my partner Rob Croxall all the time about brew schedule, recipe, hop additions, and various other things important to our product. I taste beer in fermentation all the time. But I don’t brew. Nor do I really want to.
I truly enjoy the front side of the operation, and that is what a Cicerone does. He or she guides the neophyte into the great big world that is Beer, which is not to be confused with the product that the big boys have been churning out for the better part of a century now, which doesn’t even come close to falling under Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law).
That’s exactly what a Cicerone should be: a guide. The word is derived from an Italian word that means docent, and with over a hundred styles of beer, people need help! One of my very favorite things to do is to change someone’s mind who says he or she doesn’t like beer. I find it to be a personal quest, and I know there must be at least one style of beer that they would enjoy. I love waxing on for too long and watching people glaze over.
In the end, I think the Cicerone’s position is one just as important as the Brewer. Most people don’t really understand what real, live beer is, and they need help navigating the ever growing waters of the craft beer world. We need brewers to keep brewing ever more intriguing beers. But just as much we need educated salesmen, bartenders, and advocates to spread the word. And I intend to do just that, and help others to do the same.
And to that point, join me for one of my bi-weekly classes, every other Tuesday night. Check out the El Segundo Brewing website (elsegundobrewing.com) for details. Get educated, and help us spread Craft Beer Love!
(Editor’s note: This is the first of a column that will be written by various members of the local brewing community. If you have local beer news, ideas, love, or calendar items, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)