One of the biggest challenges facing craft beer, both in Australia and globally, is education. From awareness of quality product to styles; education is the key to moving the industry forward. It’s great having unique and interesting beers accessible to the public but if the public are only familiar with big-brewery lagers, then they may not know that an imperial stout or an Imperial IPA is probably not the right choice for their first beer of the night.
Getting people to try something new is often half the battle, but if the something new is on the extreme end of the scale, it might turn them off for life.
Slowly we are seeing beer education courses and events start up around Australia. If global trends are anything to go by we are going to continue to see more.
Last week, I attended the Melbourne launch of Beer Academy, one of the most recent to begin in Australia. Beer Academy originally started in 2003 in the UK, and offers courses ranging from introductions to beer “sommelier” certificates.
The launch was hosted by Melbourne’s own beer identity (and Brews News co-editor), Pete Mitcham (known to many as Professor Pilsner or “Prof”) and was held at the James Squire Portland Hotel in the CBD. The evening was a 90 minute beer and food matching discussion called “Introduction to Beer”, which will be one of the academy’s regular courses.
The beers selected for the evening – Stone Pacific Ale, La Trappe Blond, Mountain Goat High Tail Ale, Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale, and James Squire Jack of Spades Porter – were aimed at those who may be unfamiliar with craft beer as well as beer and food pairing. With many of the crowd being invited by the Academy, the night also served as a reminder to people about how good these beers can be.
“Part of the reason for selecting the beers tonight was a little bit sneaky on my part. I want the insiders (those specially invited beer lovers) to perhaps come back to some of the beers they have moved off”, Mitcham said.
This was definitely the case for me and I came away with new appreciation for some that I have been overlooking – specifically the Mountain Goat High Tail. A beer I was drinking long before I knew what craft beer was and one that I stopped drinking as I explored more.. Paired with a rabbit pastie and slivers of fried sweet potato, it really stood out.
Also the La Trappe Blond paired with steamed mussels proved why the combination is a Belgian classic, with the salty sweetness of the mussel cutting through the big banana flavours of the Belgian yeast.
On a personal level, one of the things Mitcham is passionate about and wants the Academy to achieve is to make restaurants aware of the possibilities of beer and food matching.
“I’d love to see restaurants that are putting out really great food matched with really great wine lists, realise that there’s an alternative. You don’t need to have 3 same-same lagers and call that a beer list.”.
Those that know me would know I share the same opinion so seeing a Beer Academy launched with eyes to educate people and industry is very exciting. The greater the awareness of well made and craft-beer, the greater the chances of the industry surviving.
Now that the academy has been launched in both Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, there are launches coming up in Newcastle with plans for Tasmania later. In addition to the Introduction to Beer classes, there will be different 90 minute tasting sessions, judging sessions and beer and food pairing sessions.
“It’s all about spreading the word and getting people interested in good beer. What we’re doing, is not about promoting me as a presenter, it’s not about advertising… it is really genuinely about getting people in and experiencing something that we know and love.” Mitcham said.
You can find more information about the upcoming events in Melbourne and around the country at their website.