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.
“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）。
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。
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.
“The more people that talk about it, the better off we’re gonna be.”
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.
“Treat every beer drinking opportunity as an opportunity to learn.”
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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