Blowing My Own Trumpet
Towards the end of last year I came across something called the Virtual Beer School, an on-line tutor led beer course that takes you through the first level of the Cicerone Beer Accreditation. It looked like the kind of thing I would really enjoy, but I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense at the time. Fast forward a few weeks and the inevitable question got asked by Mrs MusingAnorak, “what would you like for Christmas?” Normally the answer is “nothing really,” but this time it was “well, there is this on-line beer course I’ve seen…”
Fast forward to mid January and it was time for the first lesson, at around the time I was landing in Kyiv! But this doesn’t matter, all sessions are recorded and you are able to go back and catch up, or listen again if there were some things you wanted to double check. I joined properly in week 2 unsure of what to expect only to find it exceed my expectations. It’s basically a whole group of like minded people, insomuch as every likes beer, trying to learn more. The sessions are professionally led by Natalya Watson, herself a qualified Advanced Cicerone and Beer Sommelier.
The format for each week is a recap of any questions arising from the previous week followed by teaching about a section of the Level One syllabus, with a view that at the end you will be in a position to take the exam should you wish to. Every week, despite having quite a good beer knowledge, new facts were revealed to me, either from the course or from one of my fellow students in the course of general conversation. The ninety minutes each week just flew by. Some weeks including tasting sessions, with a list of beers or styles to source given in advance, and luckily none of these fell on a week when I was on-call, and thus unable to drink! I did miss one of these sessions, the one that covered European lager styles, including Czech pilsner, because I was in Prague drinking Czech pilsner…
Finally, this week, work had finally calmed down enough for me to look in to doing the exam. This is entirely optional, and comes at an additional cost paid direct to Cicerone, but I’m a sucker for a certificate! You have 30 minutes to answer 60 questions and need to score 75% to pass. If you fail your fee permits one re-take. I’d attained the pass mark on the sample tests that Natalya had provided, but that was a few weeks ago when the material was still fresh in my mind but hadn’t done “revision” since. I decided to have a go at the exam, knowing that if I failed I could read up on the areas I struggled in and try again. But. I passed! And I have a certificate to prove it! (Although you have to print it out yourself.)
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join the VBS “real life” meet up in Manchester in May because, you guessed it, I was on-call. But I will try and get to future ones because the whole thing is just very friendly and sociable, as well as being educational. To be fair I think this goes for most Adult Education, if you’re choosing to learn about something because you enjoy it, and not because you’re being told you have to, then it is always going to be more enjoyable. And that’s why I’ve already said that I’m going to do Level Two later this year.
Finally, a big, big THANK YOU! to Natalya!