All posts for the month December, 2012


Mirella Amato recently contacted me to advise me of a press release regarding her becoming the first and only Canadian Master Cicerone.  Following the press release I’ve added her response to my questions as to her thoughts on the local scene and whether or not she has plans to return to our area in the foreseeable future.

Toronto – Dec 13, 2012 – The first Canadian Master Cicerone® is declared; Mirella Amato is now one of only six Master Cicerones in North America. It’s remarkable that a woman should be the first Canadian to earn this high distinction in a typically male dominated industry.

Becoming the best in beer

To become a Master Cicerone®, candidates must get top marks (at least 85%) in two intensive days of 10 hours of written questions, two hours of oral exams and two hours of beer testing and evaluation!

“The whole exam is gruelling. It’s an exercise in stamina, going back and forth between essay questions, oral exams and tasting exams for hours, and then waking up the next day and doing it all over again. I slept for two days after it was all over,” says Mirella of her experience.

According to the Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) program website, a Master Cicerone® must “possess encyclopedic knowledge of beer” and have “highly refined tasting ability.”

Move over wine, beer is raising the bar  

SCTV legends, Bob and Doug McKenzie, would probably be blown away by Mirella’s accomplishment. No doubt they would say “beauty.”

Experts like Mirella are reshaping the future of beer with their specialized knowledgeable and passion for the craft. With consumer demand for specialized beer expertise on the rise and the burgeoning craft-beer industry, the concept of beer experts with an elite pedigree is garnering credibility and respect.

“Because my area of specialization is so new, it’s important to me that people know they can trust my level of expertise. The Craft Beer Institute’s Cicerone program provides exactly that; it’s an independent assessment by an established and credible organization,” says Mirella Amato.

The master wine sommelier had better watch out, as the popularity, novelty, and abundance of beer is embraced by a new breed of hip gourmet foodies and drinkers.

About the award: The Cicerone® Certification Program

The Master Cicerone® title is the third and top level of the program

  • Mirella Amato is only the second Canadian to attempt the Master Cicerone® exam and she is the first to pass
  • Founded in 2007, the Cicerone® Certification Program tests and certifies beer expertise similar to the wine world’s Master Sommelier program
  • The first level in the program is Certified Beer Server, the second level is Certified Cicerone®
  • Through 2012, there have been 36 attempts by applicants to pass the third-level Master Cicerone® exam resulting in the current roster of six Master Cicerones
  • Mirella Amato’s certification reflects the evolution of the Canadian beer scene. She is the first person outside of the USA to earn the title of Master Cicerone®

About BeerologyTM

Master Cicerone® Mirella Amato provides high caliber consulting to pubs, restaurants and breweries. Her expertise and specialized service include: advising on beer selection, beer descriptions for menus and food pairing recommendations, directing guided beer tastings, and sensory analysis training. For more on what Mirella does, please visit her website:

To contact Mirella Amato directly, please email:


Additional information >

The knowledge required for the Master Cicerones® certification is outlined in the program’s 19-page Master Syllabus which can be viewed at The website provides information on the other levels of certification leading up to the Master Cicerone® exam.

The Cicerone® Certification Program is a service of the Craft Beer Institute, the Chicago-based beer and brewing education organization. The program is directed by brewer, author and beer educator Ray Daniels. A wide range of breweries, beer distributors and retailers participate in the program.

Master Cicerone®, Certified Cicerone® and Cicerone® Certification Program are trademarks of the Craft Beer Institute, a Chicago-based beer and brewing education organization.


After receiving the press release from Mirella, I asked her the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts on the beers coming out of Atlantic Canada?
  • Last March you hosted a Women Love Beer Too Event sponsored byPicaroons.  Do you have any plans for future events in Atlantic Canada?

Here is her response:

I had a fantastic time in Fredericton earlier this year, working with Picaroons and the Garrison District Ale House on some beer tastings. I was also brought in by Garrison Brewing last year to lead some tastings at Seaport BeerFest, which gave me a great opportunity to sample beers from all over Atlantic Canada. As of now, I don’t have any upcoming gigs in your area but I do hope to have the opportunity to work out East again soon! I’ve met so many people out there who are passionate about beer, both from the consumer side and on the brewing side of things. It’s a great energy! Out here in Toronto, we don’t have access to a lot of beers from Atlantic Canada, so I love being able to come down and discover what’s brewing. Also, I’ve become quite obsessed about getting out to The Laundromat Espresso Bar in Moncton…. I think it’s awesome that there’s a brewery so tiny that it only has one tap in one place in the whole entire world… it rouses the beer geek in me!


Updated Dec 14th at 7:23 PM.  I received a press release from the good folks at Garrison after originally posting.  Here is the information contained within the release:

Garrison’s celebrated Spruce Beer goes on sale today

HALIFAX, NS – Dec.14, 2012 – Garrison Spruce Beer is back for the holiday season but it’s not likely to last long. Thirty minutes before opening, a crowd was already gathering for this traditional favourite.

“This has become something people really anticipate,” says Brian Titus, brewery president. “It’s exclusive to Nova Scotia this year so we’re hoping there’s enough stock to make it through the weekend!”

Described by some as a “Christmas tree in a glass”, this seasonal specialty is brewed with local Spruce and fir tips harvested from Meander River Farms and loads of blackstrap molasses. Complex and full-bodied, this beer balances crisp Spruce bitterness and aromatics with the warming flavours of molasses and caramel.

“I really enjoy making such a unique brew for the holidays,” says Brewmaster, Daniel Girard. “The beer is a pleasure to sip on and it has so much history in the Maritimes”.

“Spruce Beer” is 7.5% alc/vol with moderate bitterness. It’s packaged in 500ml single-serve bottles and officially went on sale today at the brewery and all four private stores (while supplies last).

Original post:

In a sure sign that the Fat Guy in the Red Suit will be around any day now, Garrison Brewing’s Spruce Beer will be available today at the brewery at 9am.  The beer will also be available at the Halifax private stores but unfortunately not through any of the local liquor commissions.  Below is an extract of a Q & A I did with Garrison President Brian Titus earlier this year regarding the beer:

ACBB: Your Spruce Beer generated a great deal of buzz when it was available last Winter, can you tell me about the beer?

BT: This is a beer that was initially a curiosity to us and we appreciated the historical references to the founding of Halifax as it was brewed in the area at that time. We even came across some “how to brew spruce beer and cook beaver” reference material when researching the beer. It described cooked beaver as fatty, chewy and basically edible at best. The Spruce beer didn’t sound much more appealing based on the description!

Daniel was really pushing to brew this, he really wanted the challenge of creating something very unique and I kept asking him “how am I going to market and sell Spruce beer”? This has really turned into a big success for us, we brewed three times as much Spruce beer last year as the first year although the harvesting is a lot of effort. Overall Spruce Beers are growing in popularity with some form of Spruce beer available in many provinces at some point in the year.

I normally keep the content on this blog to the local scene but when someone from Slovenia reaches out to me I’m ready to do a post.  Matej Pelicon, the Head Brewer for Pelicon Brewery, recently sent me the following email.  Whenever you’re in Ajdovščina (sounds like Out-of-China), on the West side of Slovenia, be sure to check them out.

Hello fellow craft beer lovers,

I’m Matej from Slovenia, a homebrewer, beer lover and beer writer for Vino (wine) magazine. As winemaking is common in Slovenia, craft breweries seem not to follow this trend despite having one of the best hops in the world. You might heard about Styrian Golding, rumor has it monks at infamous Westvleteren use it in their beers.

I decided to start a craft brewery to spread the word about craft beer under family name Pelicon. My team of young talents from different professions and I launched a project on Kickstarter to crowdfund part of startup cost. Accidentally we became the first brewery in Europe who did this.

Here’s a link to more information including an entertaining video.