"When people say, 'I don't like beer' I always say, 'You just don't know you like beer,'" says Angeline MacLennan. She, on the other hand, always knew she was into it—whether making her own brews or knocking back somebody else's. With two young kiddies at home, she's been on-and-off of drinking over the past few years, but during her last maternity leave she decided to study up and test her expert knowledge. "I figured if no one else was doing it, I might as well," she says, laughing. It took nine months of reading, and a four-hour exam, but she's Nova Scotia's first certified cicerone.
Derived from an old Italian term for someone who guides people, a cicerone is kind of like a sommelier for beer. A complete connoisseur on everything from beer styles to draught systems to pairing, brewing, ingredients and...basically everything from grain to glass. "I like to teach, I'm really into the education part" says MacLennan, who currently does private tastings, pairings, is a beer judge and blogs as The Pale Alewife. "People are very eager to learn and that's exciting."
Cicerone certification is relatively new to Canada—there's only one master cicerone in the country, and 58 cicerones—but fellow keeners will have a shot to write the exam this July at Stillwell. Finally, a cram session where a couple of drinks might help you. "Beer isn't as intimidating as getting in to some of the other alcohol and spirits," says MacLennan. "To get people to come out and drink different beer, it isn't as scary to them. If you're going to go into the store and drop some money on something you've never tried, dropping four dollars is accessible." —AS