Annette May talks to Crain’s Detroit Business in “Not your Grandpa’s Beer”

With craft brewing on the rise, today’sbeer drinkers face a diverse array ofstyles and flavors — just knowing thedifference between Stroh’s and Schlitzwon’t cut it anymore. Allen Park residentAnnette May, 50, a veteran of the beerindustry and manager of the beerdepartment at Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn, offered Crain’s some tips onbecoming an expert.

How to pick: The trendiest beers in the craft brewing world today are heavily hopped India Pale Ales and “imperial” brews, which offer higher alcohol content and more powerful flavors, but this aren’t usually popular among novices. May says people trying to discover good beer should consult an expert at a local store. “Once they get to know you,they’re going to know what you like,” she said, but first, “you have to know what you like to drink.”

How to serve: Whether the beer comes in a can or a bottle, always pour it into a glass. “You lose the aroma straight away if you drink it out of a bottle,” May says. Skilled servers pour beer smoothly but not so smoothly it doesn’t foam, because beer needs to interact with air to release its scent and reach peak flavor. “If you pour it really gingerly, that’s not going to happen,” she said.

How to drink: “It’s a little like assessing a glass of wine,” said May, who picks her beer based on what she’s eating. She examines the bottle, color and scent before taking her first sip. “I have a nice whiff and get all those malty, hoppy, spicy, yeasty aromas, depending on what the beer is. And then I taste it.”

How to learn: May became a certified cicerone, the beer equivalent of a somme-lier, through the Chicago-based Craft Beer Institute. About 45 people have achieved the rank so far, with the first master cicerone exam scheduled for November.


Web Exclusive Publication in Crain’s Detroit Business written by Gabe Nelson. Published September 6, 2009.

FULL ARTICLE: Not your Grandpa’s Beer (pdf, 564 KB)