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Neil Witte-- 一场盛宴过后,让我们回到啤酒的根本 Real Advice from a Master Cicerone-"Treat Every Beer Drinking an Opportunity to Learn"

越来越多的人自诩了解精酿,却没有几个能成为名副其实的世界级啤酒大师。Master Cicerone-- 这一国际啤酒品鉴及知识的最高级别认证,至今全世界仅有十六位获此殊荣,而Neil Witte就是其中之一。

从1993年在家乡密苏里开始摸索自酿,到2012年成为世界第13位Master Cicerone,除了多年的严格训练,不断学习-- 我们很好奇,这其中还有什么驱动着一个没有专业背景的人成为世界之最?所以当我们得知Neil来到第三届CBCE(中国国际精酿展)举行Cicerone的啤酒风味培训时,迫不及待要把心中的问题抛给他。

A lot of people claim to know craft beer. But very few can claim the title of Master Cicerone - only 16 in the entire world, to be exact. And like master sommeliers of wine, becoming a cicerone takes years of rigorous training, practice and study - not to mention, a passionate love of beer.

So when we found out a master cicerone, Neil Witte, was here in Shanghai, naturally we beer geeked out and went to have a chat with him. Maybe some of his beer wisdom could rub off on us?

Though Neil is now one of the world’s leading experts on beer, he journeyed a long road to get there. Back in 1993 in his home state of Missouri, he started out by learning how to home brew. After a few years of trial and error, labor and love, he happened upon a formal job in the industry. A friend of his working at a winery invited him to work in packaging and help with fermentations.

“家酿了几年后,我决定从事啤酒事业。”

“After homebrewing for a few years, I decided to get into the beer business.”

Neil酿酒的职业生涯,出人意料地,竟然是从葡萄酒开始。朋友为他介绍了当地一家葡萄酒厂的工作,同时帮助包装和发酵车间。接着他在堪萨斯城找到了一份更称心的职业:在啤酒吧打工,正是这份工作让他很快认识了啤酒生涯的贵人-- 知名的大道酒厂(Boulevard Brewing)。

作为当时美国精酿复兴的代表之一,大道酒厂求才若渴,这也让Neil第一次有机会将家酿的技巧付诸商酿。做了三年酿酒师之后,Neil敏感地意识到,将一杯最好的啤酒呈现到消费者面前,绝对不只是酿酒师一个人的功劳。酿酒只是保证啤酒品质的第一步,而啤酒出厂之后的问题,在那个年代还是无穷的未知数。

当Neil告诉我们他在大道酒厂的下一个职业抬头时,带着不合时宜的谦卑。“在地质量经理”,Neil解释说,“就是和零售商,经销商以及销售员共同合作,解决任何可能在市面上出现的啤酒质量问题。”说得简单一点,接下去的16年里,Neil的工作就是保证全美、甚至世界各地出售的大道啤酒,都和酒厂里酿酒师手中的那杯一样好喝。从调试生啤系统,寻求物流出路,到解决冷链...用Neil的话来说,他的十六年,就是一幅“美国现代精酿地图”。

Neil’s big break came later on when that job led him to yet another brew pub in Kansas City, at the time a burgeoning craft beer capital - and it was only a matter of time before he found his way to the now iconic beer brand Boulevard Brewing, one of the leaders of America’s craft beer renaissance.

At Boulevard Brewing, Neil started as a brewer, but it wasn’t long before he discovered the many roles that go into making a beer perfect as can be. Of course the brewer is the mastermind behind it all, but he can’t do it alone. After 3 years of learning the brewing ropes, Neil moved on to working as a field quality manager.

Neil tells his own story with a humility unbefitting of his uniquely accomplished title. When you hear him say “field quality manager”, you might think of it as any other job in the business. As Neil describes it, he “worked with retailers and distributors and sales teams on any quality issues that might come up in the marketplace.” But the sexier truth of it is, as field quality manager, he spent the next 16 years making sure that everywhere Boulevard beers were sold, they tasted up to the standard that the brewers originally intended. Not only does that mean that Neil required an extensive technical knowledge of draft systems, cold freight and other challenges unique to distributing and serving craft beer, but also the ability to transmit this knowledge to other aspiring beer geeks everywhere. He basically spent 16 years spreading the good beer gospel to the world.

所以2016年,当Neil离开大道成立自己的啤酒质管企业时,一切都似乎水到渠成。连公司名都是如此的简单直接“精酿质量解决方案(Craft Quality Solutions)”-- 一家为酒厂,经销商及零售商提供在地质量服务咨询的企业。

当然为Neil加持的,除了16年的实地工作经验,还有赋予其权威的Master Cicerone称号,包括此次上海之行,他也是作为Cicerone认证体系的大使来进行啤酒品控的传授。除此之外,Neil还于2012年被美国酿酒师协会任命为质量及生啤质量大使。拥有多重重量级身份的Neil虽是第一次拜访中国,却不免让人联想他本人及Cicrone对未来中国市场的规划。

Nowadays Neil has begun a new chapter in his beer life. At the end of 2016, he left Boulevard to found his own business: Craft Quality Solutions, a consultancy that continues spreading the beer gospel to avid drinkers of the world, or, as he puts it, “providing field quality services to craft brewers, distributors, and retailers.”

But that’s not all he’s been up to in this latest chapter of his beer career. He’s also been spending the better part of the last decade working with a Cicerone certification program. After passing the prestigious master cicerone exam in 2012, he has become the US Brewers Association’s quality and draft quality ambassador.

“要的人多了,我们就真的来了。”

“The more people that talk about it, the better off we’re gonna be.”

Neil目前并没有发展中国区客户的打算,但是精酿啤酒已被证明是一个世界化的产业,就在CBCE会前不久,Neil还去了哥伦比亚,为一家Bogota的新酒吧提供生啤设备培训。“只要这里(中国)的客户有需要,也许一通电话我们就能来提供服务了。”

至于更多精酿爱好者关心的Cicerone线下考试及课程,Neil认为现在还言之过早。虽然香港已经率先举办了Cicerone一级的线下考试,但考题仍以英文为主,这与香港的英文普及程度有关。目前Cicerone有英文及西班牙文两种版本,要将整套系统转换为中文版本,非一朝一夕之事。Neil让中国粉丝耐心等待:“只要有足够多的人有需要,我们迟早会来的”。

Neil doesn’t currently have plans to personally expand his business into China, but, he says, “All it would take is one person to pull me over here to work with them on something.” Craft beer knows no borders. He’s already quite happily international, helping a client in Colombia set up their draft systems and train their staff at brewpubs in Bogotá and Cartagena.

What about for aspiring Cicerones in China? Neil says there’s big potential for the certified cicerone program in China, but it’s still very early on. Those located in Hong Kong were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the program, and the seeds are being sown here on the mainland, but it’s early days. Neil advises, “The more people that talk about it, the better off we’re gonna be.” So, fellow beer geeks of China: start demanding cicerone certification programs, and you shall have it.

“把每次喝酒都当做学习的机会。”

“Treat every beer drinking opportunity as an opportunity to learn.”

当然与其坐等,不如行动。Neil从第一次Cicerone线上考试到成为Master Cicerone,花了整整四年半的时间。“这个过程让我主动学习一切啤酒知识,这些知识到头来也都证明是有用的。”

至于如何闯关这啤酒界最难的考试,Neil表示Cicerone虽然有备考课程,但绝对没有像“新东方”一样的应试材料,他的建议是,“把每次喝酒都当做学习的机会。尽量多喝啤酒,寻找不同的风格,尝试新啤酒。从家酿开始,了解酿酒的每一个过程。如果你认识做生啤系统的朋友,跟着他一天,学习整个系统的构造。如果你想学啤酒和美食的搭配,试着用不同风格的啤酒搭配你最爱的食物,寻找惊喜。记录,沉浸,把啤酒当成生活的一部分。

即使没有Master Cicerone,我们一样可以好好享受啤酒,不是吗?

So how did Neil pass the industry’s toughest exam and set up his own business at the same time? It took him four and a half years - not to mention a long career in brewing. “It forced me to learn everything I could about beer. The more you learn about beer, the better off you are.”

But now the harder question: How does one gear up for such a challenging exam? Neil advises: “Treat every beer drinking opportunity as an opportunity to learn. Taste as many beers as you can. Try something new all the time. Start homebrewing. Start making your own beer and learn about the brewing process. If you know somebody who works with draft systems, spend a day working with them and learn how draft systems work. If you wanna learn more about beer and food, try different beers with different foods and think about it, put some thought into it. Just dive in and start doing things related to beer.”

Good advice for the Cicerone exam, and great advice for life. Don’t mind if we do, Neil.

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