You may not know this, but many of the team members you see in Total Wine & More are Certified Beer Servers in the Cicerone Program, ready to help you find the right brew to take home with you.
Okay, we know many of you are scratching your heads wondering, “What the heck is a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Program?”
We’re glad you asked! Think of the Cicerone Certification Program as the beer counterpart to the sommelier certification for wine. Since its founding, the program’s mission has been to provide better knowledge and training about beer and beer styles to professionals in the beer industry. The people this program helps inform range from brewers and brewery employees, to beer servers in restaurants and retail store employees where beer is sold. The program began in 2008, and today helps bring beer knowledge and professionalism to beer sales all around the United States.
Now you might be thinking, this is all good and well, but how does that help me when I visit Total Wine & More? The answer is that it helps our team members assist you in selecting the right beer for any occasion. With 135 stores across 18 states, we now have hundreds of team members who are Certified Beer Servers in the Cicerone Program, and even a few Certified Cicerones. That’s more than a couple of team members per store who can help you with any beer question you may have.
Looking for the perfect brew for a backyard BBQ that will please everyone? We can help. Maybe you love a specific beer style, such as IPA, and want to broaden your tastes with some new beers to try. Our team can help you find the perfect new brews to take home.
In some states, our Cicerone Certified Beer Servers take their love of beer to a whole new level. They not only help with the recommendation of the right brew, but they’ll perfectly pour fresh draft beer to fill a growler you can take home. Visit our Brewery District at select stores in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington to grab a 32- or 64-oz. growler of craft beer to go. You can even see our growler menu online at www.totalwine.com/whatsontap.
So stop in and take advantage of our knowledge the next time you need to stock up the fridge or cooler. With American Craft Beer Week happening right now, it’s the perfect time to stop by and see your local beer team during the last weekend of our Total Beer Experience. See you soon!
If you missed Part 1 of our interview with Dr. Bill, you missed half of an awesome conversation. Start there and we’ll see you back in a few minutes!
Total Wine: What is your personal favorite food and beer pairing? Everyone really does want to know.
Dr. Bill: One pairing that I think is absolutely amazing is also at the top of Garrett Oliver’s list. Although I often stray from Garrett’s pairing guidelines as I like to take pairings to the next level, there is no improving on a well-aged Colston-Bassett Stilton with an aged barley wine. The earthiness of the cheese with the caramel/toffee/winter fruit notes from the beer is seductively sublime!
Total Wine: Last night we dreamed of a beer pairing dinner battle so awesome, only the top beer pairing experts could compete. The final of the competition was an epic battle between Dr. Bill Sysak and Garrett Oliver in an “Iron Chef” meets “Bobby Flay Throw down” meets “WWE Caged Match” type format. What meal would be your ideal theme and how would you defeat the great Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster at this game?
Dr. Bill: Ha-ha, I could say a 12 course fast food dinner because knowing Garrett I’m pretty sure he hasn’t had any recently. Seriously though the food doesn’t matter, as I feel I can pair any food in the world and I’m sure he feels the same.
I recently did one of these with famous Canadian beer writer Stephen Beaumont where I beat him in a close competition. I will say it was also on my home turf though. All I would ask is to have the chef plan the menu and not delineate from it. Then give us both the option to taste and pair it prior to the event with a full quiver of 100 beers to choose from. I pair food and beer events without ever pre-tasting the food dozens of times a week for Stone accounts, acquaintances and fans. I know they are really good pairings but tasting the menu first allows you to go outside the box.
A chef is an artist. If I selected 12 chefs and asked them all to cook a Wagyu sirloin medium rare over a parsnip puree with a red wine demi glaze and sautéed greens. We would have 12 different dishes, from the spice rub or lack thereof on the meat, to the amount of reduction, to the greens selected. Not to mention one of them may decide the dish would be better with a truffle butter on the steak. I like to take a completed dish and see where it leads me. I will always have a classic pairing in mind when I see the menu, but then I like to go all the way to the left and all the way to the right and find that unique pairing that sings to my palate. The bottom line is we would all be guaranteed a night of amazing food with exceptional pairings.
Total Wine: We noticed that you also have an expertise pairing beer with cigars. Could you give some guidance, perhaps offering a suggestion or two of what cigars to pair with some classic beer styles?
Dr. Bill: Yes although I’m known primarily for beer and food pairings I also excel at pairing wine, spirits, and cigars. I’m currently doing a Beer and Cigar Master Pairing Dinner here at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens with our president and brew master Steve Wagner. I take two world class cigars, six courses and six beers and do this triangular pairing where the first cigar goes with the first three courses and first three beers and everything works with each other then it segues into the second half of the dinner.
When selecting a beer to enjoy with your cigar, here are a few guidelines to enhance your pairing. Finding a beer that complements without overwhelming the cigar is the key to a perfect combination. The most popular kinds of beer to pair with cigars are Stouts and Porters. Strong, dark, malty or slightly chocolaty, stouts and porters pair well with many cigars. Other beers that work well with a number of different cigars are; Barley Wines, Old Ales, Belgian Quads & Strong Ales. If you can find them barrel aged, all the better.
You don’t have to stop there though!
If you have a medium strength cigar with spice characteristics, another option is to find an India Pale Ale, Saison, or Bière de Garde. These beers can hold up to many cigars. Note that double IPA’s with their higher IBU count (bitterness level) have a tendency to overpower some cigars.
Lighter cigars with Claro or Candela wrappers pair well with beers as light as Belgian Wits or German Hefeweizens. The subtle springtime floral aromas of a candela when lit and the sweet grassy flavor work wonderfully with these lighter beer styles.
Total Wine: Finally, are there any special projects you are working on right now? Can you leak some secrets to the Total Wine readers?
Dr. Bill: As you know I always have a number of events coming up here at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens-Escondido, but with our new Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens-Liberty Station facility coming on line this week expect some cool new events there especially for San Diego Beer Week and the addition of a couple of new festivals there in 2014.
I’m also excited about the Gray Cloud Festivals being put on by the producers of the OC Brew HaHa. Why? Well because they are unique as the first Craft Beer, Artisanal Food, and boutique cigar pairing festivals where hundreds of fans can get together and enjoy themselves. They have a great charity named Yellow Ribbon America and guess who is doing all the pairings.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us today.
Total Wine: A beer doctor? That is extremely awesome. Most fans know the nickname comes from your time as a military medic and your professional experience working in hospitals. However, we believe you have earned the title just for what you’ve done within the craft beer movement. Could you highlight the top few achievements that you are most proud of in your craft beer career?
Dr. Bill: I could list the number of breweries I’ve been to or the amount of times I’ve visited Belgium or any number of stats, but those kind of things are not what I’m the most proud of. One thing that is close to my heart is that it has been over 35 years since I had my first craft beer. I guess you could say I grew up with the American Craft Beer movement. I was 15 in 1977 and great beer has been a passion of mine ever since. Being there since the beginning has allowed me to make 1,000’s of friends in the industry over the last 3+ decades. I’ve had amazing mentors; my father, Michael Jackson, Pierre Celis, Don Younger who through their words and actions helped shape my view of beer.
The achievement I am most proud of though is the tens of thousands of people I’ve introduced to craft beer over that time. I’ve always made it a goal to introduce anyone and everyone to the joys of a finally crafted ales and lagers. No matter where they are from or what they do for a living there is always a style or flavor that makes that Aha moment when they first taste it. That look in their eyes and that phrase; “This is beer? I never knew beer could taste like this!” How does that saying go, “If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that.”
Total Wine: Admiration and jealousy. We admire how generous you always are with your time and collection of beers. Jealousy? We just mentioned your collection of beers. We just checked out a 2004 interview you did on RateBeer where you said you had 1400-1600 bottles in your cellar. Can we have an update? What are your top five prized possessions and what is the plan for them?
Dr. Bill: Well as you said I’m all about sharing so a large portion of my cellar is constantly rotating, I currently have about 2,400-2,500 bottles in two locations, which I will not be disclosing at this time, ;). Let’s see if I can come up with 5 that stick out more than the others. Belle-Vue Selection Lambic from 1999, De Dolle Stille Nacht Reserva 2000, Thomas Hardy’s Ale 1968 (first bottling), Hurlimann Samichlaus 1980 (first bottling), Eylenbosch Kriek 1989. No set plans to try any of the bottles, except for the 1968 Thomas Hardy’s. I did a complete vertical tasting of all the bottling’s in 2004 and I think I would like to do it again.
Total Wine: Your Master Pairings food and beer series with Chef Alex Carballo at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens seems to be one of the premier beer dinner events around. Can you describe the goal of the series? Who is the average guest and what can they expect?
Dr. Bill: The goal is to enlighten people to the fact that craft beer is the most versatile of all beverages when it comes to pairing with food. We have regulars, out of towners, beer geeks, and foodies. If you come to one of my dinners, expect the unexpected. With over 3 decades of beer and food pairings under my belt you can expect some eye opening pairings. Chef Alex’s food is always amazing and all his team’s creations for these dinners are unique and not found on our regular menus at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
Whether it is Beer and For the Love of Pork, Beer and Breakfast, or Beer and Sushi to name a few, don’t expect the kind of pairings you’ve seen before. There are numerous good books out there on pairing Stout with Chocolate for example but I want people to say why is he pairing Stone Ruination IPA w/ Carrot Cake, then they try it and have that Oh wow moment! I will take all the preconceived notions of pairings and throw them out whether it’s pairing a 12% beer with the salad course and finishing with a 3% beer with the dessert, or pairing an Imperial Stout w/ an arugula, pear, & prosciutto pizza.
Total Wine: Those beer dinner pairings seem to be developed for widespread appeal, something everyone will enjoy at your restaurant (and they sound spectacular). We’d like to hear about some extraordinary beer pairings that you’ve done. Could you tell us the most extreme dish you’ve ever had to pair a beer with? And then the most extreme beer you paired with food? What were the combos?
Dr. Bill: Wow, I’m having to think about that a minute. Ok, Balut (look it up) prepared in garlic and vinegar paired with a Port Brewing Hot Rocks Lager, excellent pairing, but I don’t think I need to try Balut again. Also How about Rocky Mountain Oysters pan fried paired with Stone Smoked Porter. I would definitely have this pairing again. As far as extreme beer; Westvleteren 12 paired with bacon wrapped dates stuffed w/ gorgonzola dolce.
Many cities have an officially designated annual “beer week” which gives craft beer fans many options to celebrate, enjoy and share in the community and culture of CRAFT BEER and the ability to connect with breweries and retailers who bring craft beer to market.
American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), The Mother of All Beer Weeks, is being celebrated May 14-20, 2012. This is an opportunity for beer beginners, enthusiasts, and self-proclaimed beer geeks across America to toast the advancing beer culture in the U.S.
Total Wine & More is part of this celebration with tastings, beer classes, and other special events planned during the week in stores*.
You won’t want to miss our Hooray for IPA beer class, designed for hop lovers and beer thrill seekers alike. America’s love affair with hops cannot be satiated, but we’re going to try! Class is Thu 5/17 6:30-8:30PM, & Sat 5/19 3-5PM. Be sure to register with your local store⁺.
In-store beer tastings will be held in most stores throughout the week featuring various local and regional craft brews⁺.
Special events such as meet-the-experts and beer and cheese pairings in select stores⁺.
And don’t forget, Total Wine’s new website lists all of the beers available in your selected store location. Search for beer by category including Ales, Lagers, Special Releases and Seasonals, also by Country, Beer Style, Ratings, Price, and more. You can search for kegs, too. Remember, you can special-order kegs with the store for your kegerators/party needs.