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Chris Cohen

Chris Cohen

Certified Cicerone

I'm a Certified Cicerone, beer consultant, and the founder and President of the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild. I'm all about beer, but I also love great BBQ, whiskey, and coffee. I recently quit my job as a lawyer to work towards opening SF's next top beer joint.

  • Website
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Favorite foods: Transcendent beer and food pairings thrill me. Rich smokey BBQ and a bitter pale ale or a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie and a rich barley wine are faves.
  • Last bite on earth: My last bite would probably be more of a gulp. There's a short list of amazing sour beers that could make the list, including almost anything from Cantillon, Russian River, or my new local fave, Sante Adairius.

Which Beer Certification Program is Right for You?

@Jelena - I'd recommend sticking with the Cicerone program. It has a couple different levels you can prep and test for, including the Certified Beer Server at the beginner level. As the piece above mentions, the Cicerone program is generally the most well recognized certification out there.

Reading beer books, hanging out with people who know more than you, and sampling all sorts of beers is the best way to get started with learning the ropes. If you want to greatly accelerate the learning process take an online BJCP training course, you'll learn a ton.

Good luck!

Where to Drink Great Beer in San Francisco and the East Bay

Thanks for the South Bay and Peninsula spots to check out, AgentJinja, and please excuse my San Francisco-centrism!

Where to Drink Great Beer in San Francisco and the East Bay

No doubt, afrokaze, I wish I knew enough about the South Bay beer scene to do that write up. My fave S Bay spot right now is definitely Freewheel Brewing in Redwood City -http://www.freewheelbrewing.com/. Check out their excellent British cask styles when you get a chance.

Where to Drink Great Beer in San Francisco and the East Bay

@threeleggeddog - One reason these lists are fun is because they get people talking, they're controversial. I'm thrilled to live in a place where people are passionate enough to argue about beer, keep the arguments coming!

That said, the bit you quoted about food pairings isn't from the Cellarmaker description, it's from a list in the intro of various things that set the greatest beer spots apart from the rest. For some it's food pairing, for others it's ambiance, and for yet others it's amazing beer list curation. For Cellarmaker, I'd say it's the beer itself, which is fantastic. Their taproom is gorgeous, too.

Homebrewing Resolutions: How to Make Better Beer in 2014

@ Vinny Mannering - getting into kegging is another good resolution!

@canihavesome - I don't have enough information to give you meaningful feedback. How alcohol affects you depends on many factors including how much you have, whether you've eaten recently, what your weight is, whether you're muscular, etc. It's certainly the case that 4.5% abv is a low alcohol session beer. A typical American IPA, for instance, has about 50% more alcohol than that. I've never heard of a brewery mislabeling their abv. Every brewer I know careful about meeting legal requirements including giving the customers that important info. Sorry I can't be more helpful!

Homebrewing Resolutions: How to Make Better Beer in 2014

Good point vereto, fermentation temp control is the single biggest thing you can do to make your beer better! Yeast starters are important, too.

As for pumps, they can be really annoying to use and can get clogged up, so I usually advise people to go with gravity unless pumps are the only way to make their system work.

Brewery to Watch: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

You're definitely lucky if you live right near SARA, @afrokaze. I can't wait to taste what Tim comes up with this year!

Which Beer Certification Program is Right for You?

Chris Barnes - Thanks for the info on the MBAA certification. As for the BJCP test, I would suggest that the BJCP exam is like most exams -- to a large extent they require you to prove you have knowledge that in a normal situation you could just take the time to look up. Being a BJCP judge is a serious responsibility, the people who took the time to brew those beers and then paid to enter and ship them to the competition deserve great feedback. It's important to accurately test judges to ensure they actually know what they're doing. Many people who are into beer think they're more or less qualified to judge and that just isn't the case, it's a special skill apart from the typical skill set required to deliver great beer service.

How to Become a Beer Judge

Agreed Zaphod, there's no better way to learn a ton about beer than to take a BJCP training course, even if you're not interested in taking the BJCP exam.

Homebrew Troubleshooting: How to Fix Yeast-Derived Off-Flavors in Your Beer

For anyone interested in the really geeky stuff, I did a little more research on "solventy" fusel alcohol flavors vs. "solventy" esterification flavors. Simply put, ester solvents like ethyl acetate and acetone aren't fusel alcohols, but they are commonly described as "solventy." They're produced by yeast cells that process alcohols into solventy esters when fermenting too hot ("esterification"), therefore you'll often experience both solventy fusels and solventy esters together. This is one of the better explanations I found: http://www.professorbeer.com/articles/esters.html.

Homebrew Troubleshooting: How to Fix Yeast-Derived Off-Flavors in Your Beer

Baklava - Go for it! The set up is really pretty simple and relatively inexpensive. You can get a chest freezer from Craigslist or delivered from Home Depot or Lowes for under $200 and then just pick up a temp controller like those offered by any physical or online homebrew shop. I like the digital controllers. If you want to get fancy, get a FermWrap and a two stage temp controller, then you can tape the heater to the inside wall of the freezer and the controller can control both the cold and heat to dial in the temp more exactly or can be used to warm the chamber up for diacetyle rests or for warmer fermentations (though you may not need help with that in FL).

HenkVerhaar - You're right, good eye for detail. It was a mistake to include "nail polish remover" as a description for fusel alcohol. In my tasting and judging experience, I've never encountered ethyl acetate in a beer without it also being extremely solventy and fusel, likely because those off flavors are created by the same issue of fermenting too warm. I find these flavors similar and group them together, but you're right to point out that ethyl acetate is an ester. I will request that line is edited to reflect the chemistry so as to not mislead anyone. Thanks!

Homebrew Troubleshooting: How to Fix Yeast-Derived Off-Flavors in Your Beer

I typically ferment in a glass carboy, then rack into a plastic bucket with a spigot if I'm going to bottle the beer or it if needs to go into a secondary fermenter for whatever reason (i.e. there's lots of trub or it's dry hopped, etc.), otherwise I go straight to a corny keg. With glass carboys you can be pretty confident about cleaning and sanitizing, although I hate how heavy and slippery they can be. I use a brew hauler strap when moving them around - I've seen too many serious injuries from dropping them. I usually split my 10 gallon batches into two 5 gallon carboys and ferment them with different yeasts or dry hop with different hops. I like to experiment that way.

You may already have this under control, Schmonsequences, but when it comes to upgrading gear I always recommend buying fermentation temp control before upgrading anything else. I'm lucky to be in San Francisco, where it's pretty much always around 60 F, so I can generally just use a FermWrap heater and digital temp controller. I plan to get a temp controlled chest freezer at some point for even better temp control and the ability to make lagers.

Homebrew Troubleshooting: How to Fix Yeast-Derived Off-Flavors in Your Beer

Thanks Kimmik, that's my all-electric HERMS rig. It's a little bit over the top!

How to Become a Beer Judge

Very true PSFam. I highly recommend folks get the BJCP Style Guide app for their phones. Bust it out now and then when you're drinking to think about whether your beer fits the BJCP style description and try matching up the flavors and aromas in the beer with descriptions in the guide. This really helps with learning how to describe beer. Here's a link to the iPhone app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bjcp-styles/id293788663?mt=8

BeerAmanda, you're right on. Becoming a good judge is a long term undertaking. Like all truly interesting subjects, the more one learns about beer, the more one realizes there's so much more to learn - the beer knowledge rabbit hole goes very very deep!

Ask a Cicerone: How to Pair Beer and Chocolate

If you love beer and you love chocolate, your Valentine's Day is going to be a good one. Especially now that you're armed with the advice we're sharing today: expert tips on how to find the best beers to serve with chocolate treats, whether they're simple bars, spiced-up truffles, or chocolates filled with nuts or caramel. More