There are a lot of special designations in the world, but none may be more enjoyable and indulgent than the titles of Cicerone or Beer Sommelier. Certified designations that distinguish the above-average beer guzzler and transcends their tastebuds into expertly trained absorbers of beer knowledge – Justin Lamontagne holds the title of Prud’Homme Master Beer Sommelier and Certified Cicerone.
Not to dwell on the specialness of Justin – his personal or professional pastimes – but, it’s worth noting that he’ll be leading U-Feasters through a very special Brunch n’ Brews event at BATCH on February 25th, so we thought it appropriate to catch up with him and crack open a can of info on the man behind the beard, and the beer on this #ThirstyThursday.
Who are you and what do you do?
Justin Lamontagne, Director of Beer Education at Six Pints Specialty Beer Co.
What is a Master Beer Sommelier, anyways?
Someone who is invested in elevating the appreciation for beers and works to create engaging beer experiences for all.
When choosing a beer what should people be looking for?
This depends on so many things. What are you doing? What were you just doing? What are you about to do? What are you eating? What kind of mood are you in? Are you feeling adventurous? Do you just want to switch off? Every beer is brewed with a purpose and a flavour so figure out what you want your beer to do for you and go find it.
Discovery is fun and beer offers plenty of discoveries, so I urge people to know what they like, but to go explore. We are living in a very exciting time for beer and it would be a shame for people to miss out on all the fun. If it isn’t already well known, I will offer this guidance:
Ales are more full flavoured and robust, where lagers are clean, crisp and refreshing. Colour has no impact on whether a beer is an ale or a lager. Don’t be afraid of hops; they have an important role to play countering the sweetness in beer and they aren’t just “bitter”; they are complex and fruity, spicy, herbaceous, floral, resinous, piney, and so on.
Don’t sip beer either. I’m not saying chug, but if you sip, you don’t involve your entire palate, so the balance is thrown off. Your beer will seem more bitter, as you haven’t engaged the rest of your taste buds.
DRINK BEER OUT OF A GLASS. Your tongue only has 5 flavour receptors, your nose has thousands if not millions. If you drink from a can or bottle, you are not inviting your nose to the party and missing out on so many dimensions of flavour.
When drinking a beer what should people be looking for?
People should be looking for a beer that has been cared for before it got to them. If you are out at a bar, look for signs of a clean draught system. This will usually be a place that uses branded glassware and the right coaster. If they care to do that, they probably care to maintain their draught lines. The bartender should know to pour a proper pint with a healthy head. A proper foam collar on a beer releases flavour and balances the gaseous content in your beer, making you feel less bloated.
For home consumption 95% of the time, the best beer is a fresh beer and being such a delicate beverage, there are many ways your beer can break down, so keep this in mind: beer’s big enemies are heat, light and time. Heat accelerates aging so it has a close relationship to how time oxidizes and degrades your beer. Light is the sole culprit in making your beer go skunky. Nothing else. Just light. So if you beer smells like an angry skunk, it is because UV rays beat it up. Date codes can vary by brewery so I’m not going to open that can of worms. Just know that a beer past its best before date won’t hurt you, it just won’t taste like the brewer wants it to.
What’s the craziest beer related story you have? (Let’s keep in PG-13 …ish)
By keeping the PG -13 ish, we cut down on the options I have, but one fun story comes to mind when I was hosting a training seminar and a server accidentally spilled a sample of beer directly on to some poor woman’s lap. She went beet red as did the server, so to lighten the mood, I immediately took the pint glass in my hand and dumped it onto my crotch and said “well, at least you’re not the only one.” Everyone had a laugh, the server felt better and I think the woman appreciated my solidarity. Anything for a laugh I guess.
RAPID FIRE //
Favourite breakfast beer?
Any German Weiss or Belgian Wit. If you need a brand; Hey Day Hefe is a go to.
If you were a beer what kind would you be?
Pint of Mild. I’m very smooth and can go all night.
Best beer-based travel destination?
Plzen Czech republic. Home of the original Pilsner and the epicentre of my career.
Favourite beer right now?
The next one.
Justin will answer your personal beer-centric queries and personally tour you through the BATCH brewery on February 25th. Full details HERE.