NOffLA takes us to beer knowledge’s door….

While taking to the beer at 10.30 in the morning could hardly be described as an arduous task, the thought that I’d be ‘taking to the beer’ for the rest of that day and throughout the next was proving a challenge somewhat more daunting.

Of course I put it down to the cause, that of getting a better handle on the wide world of beers and took a pew alongside my 15 classmates from the off-licence sector who’d decided to take the plunge and get themselves a comprehensive schooling on ‘craft’ beers.

‘Beer Guru’ Dean McGuinness presided over this Level II, a foundation in craft beer and cider run under the auspices of the National Off-Licence Association’s Craft Beer & Cider Training Programme.

During the two days of this intensive course, held in Dublin’s Camden Court Hotel, we were introduced to the basics of craft beers through taking a systematic approach to tasting them, getting to know and love the different flavours and understanding different beer styles.

Following Level I’s three-hour introductory session on an evening some weeks ago where 28 off-licensees attended to learn how to taste eight beers and one perry, this two-day Programme found those brave souls who’d gone forward for it tasting a good many more beers over the course of just two days.

Level II began with a presentation on cider from Simon Tyrrell of Craigies Cider who covered the varieties of apple and styles of cider that can be produced, the processing techniques used in cider-making, fermentation – and of course tasting.

Following this, the rest of that day and the next were taken up with leaning the rudiments of a variety of different beer types.

I say ‘rudiments’ because it became very clear as the day wore on that much of the work on learning enough about each of the beer types/styles would be garnered from spending long periods boning-up on the subjectmatters concerned, using the plethora of books and guidance notes that Dean supplied to us with each twist and turn of the story.

In truth, one couldn’t learn all that needs to be known about such a huge range of beer styles in just two days, so the session acts to simply signpost the way to where one might look rather than offering any divine revelation – but as erecting signposts to where to go in the supplied literature in order to learn more, it was two days well spent.

Now the real work begins, with an exam reckoned to be coming my way in early February.

Amongst those taking part in Level II was NOffLA’s own Cathal McHugh who’d helped put the training sessions together.

“I’d like to develop this course,” he told the attendees at the conclusion of the first of a number of two-day classes, “I want to stay one step ahead of our customers who’re getting more and more knowledgeable all the time.”

A Level III would be a most likely progression in 2016, he added.

The next Level II course will be held in Cork’s Clarion Hotel on Monday 22nd & Tuesday 23rd February 2016.

Find out more on these courses from the NOffLA website.


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