“Hold your drink”
Enjoy beer – but the right way! The champion German beer sommelier Frank Lucas’ advice for the Oktoberfest.
Mr. Lucas, you are the reigning champion German beer sommelier. The word sommelier is normally associated with wine. What actually is a beer sommelier?
A beer sommelier imparts knowledge about beer and spreads beer culture. He or she is the link between producers and consumers and brings all facets of the diversity of beer to life.
And how do you become a beer sommelier?
Since 2004, Doemens Akademie, in collaboration with the Bierkulturhaus in Austria, has been offering an intensive beer sommelier training course.
Is the relatively young designation beer sommelier an attempt to emerge from the shadow of wine?
As a brewer, I don’t actually see any shadow. Both are wonderful drinks that have a great tradition and are firmly rooted in our culture. If you compare how they are perceived and appreciated, we can learn a lot from wine sommeliers, because beer does indeed have diversity and potential that is at least on a par with wine. You just have to exploit the entire spectrum. Beer can be served for any occasion where enjoyment is involved, from garden parties to haute cuisine, from a football stadium to a gala reception.
As a beer sommelier, what advice do you have for anyone going to the Oktoberfest?
Hold your drink. In both senses! It goes without saying that if you like beer, you should drink it. But at the Oktoberfest it’s tradition for the glasses to hold a litre. Being able to drink as much beer as possible is not admirable. Otherwise, you should enjoy it, and the same goes for food. Even if it’s only a salted pretzel, it helps keep your electrolytes in balance.
You don’t have to put anything you can think of in the mashing tub. At some point it just becomes slapstick.
On beer’s 500th birthday, brewers of craft beer in particular started a new discussion about Germany’s purity law. What can go into beer, and what can’t?
That is something you can see relatively calmly. The law ensures that we only make products that are not a health risk. Ultimately, it’s the brewer’s own honour that dictates what natural ingredients go into his beer. Traditional beer spices can be an enrichment and influence a beer’s style. But you don’t have to put anything you can think of into the mashing tub. At some point it becomes slapstick. But then the market regulates things.
You yourself work in a small brewery. What do you do there? And what is your favourite beer?
I am the works manager at the Insel-Brauerei brewery on the island of Rügen. I don’t have a favourite beer, but after work I often enjoy our Baltic Ale. It’s light to drink, but nonetheless a subtle, mysterious beer.
Interview: Martin Orth