Taking beer to the next level

Jeff Kendrew and others like him enhance their skills with beer varieties.

Category 12 Brewing’s Jeff Kendrew is a Cicerone®

Jeff Kendrew doesn’t profess that he wants to take beer to a new level of snobbishness.

Actually, far from it.

He is, however, a beer expert — a Cicerone®.

Think sommelier when it comes to wine. With training, a person can learn grape varieties, pinpoint the region they came from and recommend different wines for different foods.

That’s essentially what a Cicerone® is — except, of course, it’s all about the beer.

Kendrew, an employee of Category 12 Brewing, a new craft brewery on Keating X Road in Central Saanich, loves beer and has worked in the business for years. He has taken his passion to the next level and for the last few years completed his training as a Cicerone® under a new program in B.C.

“A program has been running for seven years in the U.S.” he says, “and in Canada there’s a program in Ontario and Quebec. It’s now in B.C. and that will get you to level one — a certified beer server.”

In general, that level of education allows people to add to their knowledge of types of beer and is valuable to bartenders, servers and even enthusiasts. But that wasn’t enough for Kendrew.

He advanced to the next level, a self-directed program of study into the different flavours and styles of beer, how the beverage can take on different flavours and more. That study culminated in a test he took in September of 2013 — the first time it had been held in western Canada. He says his friends in the business, including beer bloggers, formed a small group of people wanting the training. Six of them took the Cicerone® exam and only four passed.

What that did for him, Kendrew explains, was increase his legitimacy in the craft brewing industry. He admits he’s not a very good cook and came up in the business more on the marketing and distribution side with places like Vancouver Island Brewing, Phillips and Lighthouse before joining Michael and Karen Kuzyk at Category 12.

“I wanted to increase my knowledge,” he says. “I can now help the business and discuss ways we tweak the recipes and styles of beer we are working on.”

Kendrew adds it also gives him insight into beer trends.

The education as a Cicerone® essentially allows Kendrew to apply a trained palate to the brewing process. Working with brewer Michael Kuzyk, he says they can pinpoint the right time to make the final call on when a beer is ready.

“Our pale ale, for example. Yes there are lots of these around but I can explain how our differs and might complement what a pub might have on tap already.”

The skills he has as a Cicerone® will come in handy when talking with customers — be they beer aficionados themselves, or newcomers to the world of craft brewing.

“The passion was always there,” Kendrew says. “Once I got the opportunity to do beer dinners, I realized there was a lot to know.”

Kendrew adds it’s not about acting smarter about the beer, but sharing with customers and making their experience a lot better.

“And it’s not about drinking and partying. I want people to be into local beer, brewed in their own region.”

That said, Kendrew adds he’s not afraid to taste other breweries’ products and help to contribute to the overall good health of the local craft beer industry.

“At Category 12, we want to have our own style and add to the mix of what’s available in this market.

“We’re doing some things our own way and doing some rogue science.”