Rob Shellman and his posse of beer educators have ventured into new territory, a beer quality certification program. The benefits, as you can imagine, will be immense for both customers and businesses.
Meanwhile, his Better Beer Society University still is going strong, holding classes every Wednesday at Republic 7 Corners. Guests are not limited to the brewing industry as evidenced by the recent charcuterie class — which featured Red Table Meats, Lone Grazer Creamery and Corner Table.
I had a chance to catch up with Rob recently.
What inspired you to start BBS?
I started BBS out of my sheer love for educating people on beer. When I first learned about Ray Daniel's Cicerone program in 2008, I was immediately inspired to follow the path of beer education and was certified in 2009. In fact, I believe I was one of the first 100-200 Cicerone's in the country. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that talking about beer made me happy and I wanted to share that happiness. I went to work on both the retail and supply side for a few years and quickly saw the need for further education in all parts/tiers of the industry. So I created BBS to be the "fourth tier," if you will, the education tier. I wanted there to be an option for Certified Cicerone's who, like me, wanted to further educate and help apply their knowledge in the trade for everyone, rather than working for one specific brewery or distributor channel.
What effect has beer education had on the Minnesota craft beer scene?
I believe that while our market is still far behind other burgeoning beer markets for numerous reasons, we do have a very educated consumer base. Thanks to our creative and progressive minded culture, guys in the industry like Matt Kenevan at The Growler, who is producing a unique monthly trade publication for the Minnesta beer community. Not many other states can claim this. Also, our sheer love to support local in Minnesota has created a huge opportunity for brewers to be involved with other culinary events, creating multiple teaching moments and exposing their beer and stories to new palates. All of this creates better beer drinkers. Consumers are becoming more versed and as a result are developing a deeper appreciation for beer, which adds to their desire to support it.
What are the benefits of being certified by BBS for local establishments?
Well, I think if your bar or restaurant sees the value in investing in a beer program, you should also see the value in truly showcasing that beer in its best light. Brewers work extremely hard in creating these unique beers, and they rely on their retail partners to help sell and handle their beer properly. This only happens by investing in your staff’s knowledge. Our certification program helps establishments achieve those best practices, as well as offers those bars, restaurants and taprooms a sense of distinction while improving their bottom line. Brewers are happy. Establishments are happy. Consumers are happy.
How will this impact the craft beer consumer?
Well, to start, consumers will no longer be fed misinformation about a specific beer or beer style. In fact, they'll receive far better flavor descriptors as the staff will have a better understanding of ingredients. Also, things like understanding the principles of food pairings, and being able to determine off-flavors, these all attribute to a better experience for the consumer. In addition, consumers will be served (ideally) perfect pours and will receive "beer clean" glassware. Beer enthusiasts are some of the most knowledgeable consumers around. They know how the beer should be served and described ... fortunately, a program like this helps bridge that gap and allows consumers a choice in who they choose to support. It's my hope that this program builds awareness that we need improved quality standards in the marketplace, from draft maintenance to the front-of-house. It's our hope we can play a big part in changing this.
For more information on Better Beer Society check out their webpage.