A thirst for knowledge: AVL Beer Week sensory training aims to educate palates

TASTE AND LEARN: Certified cicerone Cliff Mori is gearing his Beer Flavors 101 workshop toward bartenders, servers and anyone else interested in gaining a better understanding of the nuances of beer tasting and evaluation. Photo by Cindy Kunst

The Asheville Brewers Alliance will host a sensory training class led by certified cicerone Cliff Mori upstairs at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria on Tuesday, May 31. This introductory guided tasting, titled Beer Flavors 101, will focus on the flavors contributed to beer by yeast, malts and hops, and will feature local examples of styles showcasing the influence these ingredients bring to bear on a beer’s unique flavor profile.

A joint venture between the Asheville Brewers Alliance and the Cicerone Certification Program conceived and orchestrated by ABA director Kendra Penland, Beer Flavors 101 is intended to not only educate the palates of local craft beer drinkers, but also to familiarize them with the standardized vocabulary of beer tasting. According to Mori, the aim is to provide a starting point for people of all levels of beer knowledge to evolve their approach to the tasting process.

“I hope it will encourage participants to be more thoughtful when it comes to how they taste not only beer, but other food and drink as well. We tend to be a society of consumers that gives little thought to what we are consuming,” says Mori. “How many times have you asked someone what they thought of a particular food or drink and the response you received was, ‘Good’?  I’d like to help people get beyond ‘good’ to really be able to talk about what they smell and taste and be able to convey those concepts to others in a way that makes sense.”

Mori is heavily involved in the tutelage of Asheville craft beer connoisseurs and brewing industry professionals. Through his company, BREW-ed, he provides on-site training in proper beer service for the staff of bars, restaurants and tasting rooms, as well as educational brewery tours for those seeking a more in-depth understanding of beer and the brewing process.

He is also an independent contractor who has been employed for the last four years as a teacher, exam proctor and grader for the Cicerone Certification Program, a role that has taken him as far north as Vermont and as far west as Texas. Mori is currently leading a series of sensory training and off-flavor classes at Highland Brewing Co. as a part of Cicerone’s Beersavvy Bootcamp program.

While Beer Flavors 101 was developed to contribute an educational component to this year’s Asheville Beer Week festivities, the purpose of the event is to engage novices and experts alike without intimidating those new to tasting techniques and terminology. “We want folks — from craft beer aficionados to new fans — to learn about some of the fundamentals of craft beer in an informal, relaxed setting from a top-notch beer educator,” says Penland.

“This event will be great for those interested in learning more about where beer flavors come from. The material will be geared toward the average craft enthusiast, but the tasting techniques we will be employing are useful to anyone with a need to critically taste and evaluate beer,” Mori says. “Servers and bartenders working in Asheville who would like to have a better understanding of beer flavor would definitely benefit as well.”

Mori hopes that the class will enhance Asheville beer lovers’ Beer Week experience. “I think this is a great early event for the week. Hopefully after attending this event, people will be able to give a little more thought to the amazing local beers they’ll be drinking all week,” he says. Details about Mori’s Beersavvy classes can be found at cicerone.org, and his brewery tours can be booked at brew-ed.com.

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