New Year, New...Beer?

14 January 2016

Rebecca Martin

Jane Peyton, Britain’s first Beer Sommelier of the year (2014) is an award winning writer and author of several books. The founder and principal of the School of Booze, she has expertise in the finer details of alcohol and her company organises beer and wine tastings as well as pub tours and other alcohol related events. Not only well versed in modern drinking mores and habits, Peyton is an alcohol historian and has appeared on radio and TV many times, sharing her insider knowledge of the cultural history of drink.  Despite this vast area of knowledge, the humble pint still holds a special place in her heart.

“I was a beer drinker even before I could legally drink in a pub, so when I started my own business I wanted to work in an area that would be fun, something I was passionate about and that gives pleasure to millions of people – and that is beer, “ Peyton tells The LINK.

According to Peyton, beer tasting and wine tasting (and just tasting in general) both use the same principles.  The most important thing is the aroma.  Our brains register most flavour through the millions of olfactory cells in the nose.  Unless we smell our food and drink we will not taste it properly.

And the more we know about the ingredients in a beer, which malts and which hops have been used tom make it, the easier it will be to identify certain flavours within the drink.

“Also if a person knows that a human being has gathered ingredients, combined them into a recipe and then cooked them, they might appreciate more the fact that beer is a natural product and a magical gift from nature, “ says Peyton.

According to Peyton, beer is also the best libation to match with food.

Beer is mostly water and that refreshes the palate ready for the next mouthful of food.  It also contains carbon dioxide which is very effective at scrubbing the palate and clearing the mouth.  Hops are excellent at cutting through the texture of food,” says Peyton.

She goes on explaining that as beer is also very diverse in its styles and flavours , when correctly matched with food, it creates alchemy where both the food and beer work together to enhance the dining experience. 

“Also depending on the beer, it can complement the food, or it can cut through flavour, or it can contrast the food to bring out more complexity in the eating experience."

Today, beer is often seen as a masculine beverage, which Peyton think is a pity.

For the past few decades marketers and brewers have chosen to market their beer at men which seems to me to be bad business sense as they are purposely alienating 51% of the population – women.  To address this, those same marketers and brewers need to stop using overtly masculine imagery in beer marketing – they need to stop with the ‘blokey’ attitudes, they need to stop using sexualized, and often sexist and misogynist images or words about women in the marketing, “ she says. 


Another way of capturing the female market would be to encourage a more varied choice of glassware, according to Peyton. 

“Giving people an alternative to drinking beer from ugly pint glasses can help to change the perception of beer,” says Peyton.

However, she believes that the biggest thing that has to happen is that men must stop claiming beer as their drink and considering women who drink beer as odd, or unfeminine.  She mentions the irony that if anyone was to claim beer as its own, it really ought to be the women.  Women were the first brewers of beer and for thousands of years were the brewers of beer.  Men have only been brewing beer for a few hundred years, Peyton says.

“Beer is a gift from nature and Mother Nature did not intend this precious gift to be monopolized by men.  Women do not monopolize wine, cider or gin & tonics and claim them as women’s drinks and so men should not do that with beer – and yet they do.”

How would you combine beer with fine dining? (Is there a dessert beer?)
There is a beer for every dish in every meal of the day - from breakfast to dessert after dinner. There are savoury beers, sour beers, bitter beers, sweet beers.  For fine dining, choose the appropriate glassware – e.g. wine glasses, flutes, snifters, tulips.  Drink in smaller quantities and have a different beer with each dish or course.  Yes – there are many styles of beer that go well with dessert.  And with cheese, beer is much better than wine.  Has anyone ever seen a cow in a vineyard? 

If you could only ever consume 5 different beers for the rest of your life – which ones would that be?
I am going for styles rather than brands.  India Pale Ale made with English hops; Porter; Lambic (sour beer); Barley Wine; Pale Ale.

Is there (really) such a thing as a good Swedish beer? Example(s)?
Yes there is, but we do not get a good range of Swedish beers in Britain. The Swedes want to keep the good stuff for themselves!   

If you want to find out more about the art of beer tasting, and more info on Jane Peyton, her marvellous books and services, check out her website. In January the SCC hosted a beer tasting event together with Members Trowers & Hamlins where Peyton shared her expertise. If you are interested in hosting similar networking events, please contact Ebba Wiberg on For more info on SCC networking, please check out our upcoming events. 


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