From weekend warriors to self-styled connoisseurs, Canadians pride themselves on their knowledge of all things beer.
No Canadian, however, knows more on the subject than Master Cicerone, Mirella Amato.
Amato recently earned the certification after 14 grueling hours of tests that included essay-writing, oral exams and beer tasting. In so doing, she became Canada’s first Master Cicerone – a distinction that requires an encyclopedic knowledge of beer – and one of only six in North America.
“It was a pretty insane exam,” she said. “There’s a really wide range of questions you have to answer to get your Master Cicerone certification ranging from proper draft maintenance to tasting and identifying beers to understanding the whole brewing process to pairing beer with food.”
Whereas many people get into beer drinking by tippling whatever happens to be on hand, Amato was introduced to craft beer right off the bat. That, she said, fueled her passion for the beverage.
“I’ve always been a beer geek since I first started drinking beer,” she said. “I was the annoying friend who was always taking friends out to the fancy places with fancy beers.”
While Amato has dabbled in brewing, she found she did not enjoy creating her own brews. She much prefers interacting with people over the solitary and finicky existence of brewers.
“I have a lot of patience dealing one-on-one with people, but I don’t have a lot of the patience you need to brew something and then wait a couple of months to see if it worked.”
Amato parlays her skill as a beer expert into work training pub staff, consulting with pubs, hosting guided beer tastings and otherwise imparting knowledge to those who want to learn more about various brews.
“My goal across the board is to promote beer literacy and help people get to a stage where they have enough beer knowledge that they can pair their beer with a meal or send a beer back if it doesn’t taste right, which a lot of people still aren’t comfortable doing,” she said.
While Amato is well-versed in the world of beer, she does not have a personal favourite. Instead, she chooses a flavour that goes with her food, her mood, the weather and various other factors. In fact, when it comes to beer, she has only one rule she follows whenever possible.
“My general mode is to always reach for that one beer I haven’t tried,” she said.
She noted that Toronto has a great selection of pubs such as C’est What or the Rhino that offer a wide selection of beer on tap or on cask, the latter being her preference.
She also suggests Torontonians try out local brew pubs such as the Granite Brewery and the Bellwoods Brewery.
Amato has lived in the Annex for the past 12 years and has also lived in Corso Italia, an ideal situation for her lifestyle.
“I love it here because there’s such a range of things right at your fingertips,” she said. “I can just pop out and get Portuguese food, Thai food, any kind of food I have a hankering for. I can get on my bike and take in anything from opera to stand-up comedy to a b-boy competition.”
For more information on Amato and the work she is doing to help people learn more about beer, visit www.beerology.ca