Meet the Cicerone: Craft Beer Cellar's Brian Kervick
The Nashua beer-seller recently joined the ranks of the world's most knowledgeable brew experts
With more than 60 craft breweries spread across the state (and new ones opening seemingly every week), it's no secret that New Hampshire is home to some great beer. To help you get to know some of the Granite State's favorite sudsy spots, we're implementing a new series of "Meet the Brewer" profiles to introduce you to our top-notch New Hampshire breweries and the men and women behind them.
In this installment, we're doing things a little differently. Brian Kervick, the "hoperations manager" of the Nashua branch of the Craft Beer Cellar retail store, was recently named an Advanced Cicerone. Only 62 people in the world hold this title, meaning this New Hampshirite is one of the most knowledgeable beer experts you'll find just about anywhere. Read on to learn all about the store and their illustrious title-holder.
About the Cicerone
NH Magazine: How did you get into the craft brew business?
Brian Kervick: My dad dragged me around to breweries and brewpubs back in the "microbrew" boom in the '90s, so by the time I came of age I was already aware that there was better beer out there than what was on supermarket shelves and on commercials. I got a job in a Boston-area liquor store soon after college and have been working in beer retail ever since.
NHM: What made you want to go into beer retail instead of opening your own brewery?
BK: I'm not the most mechanically-inclined guy out there, and at its heart, brewing is an industrial job. On the retail side, I get to interact with a lot of great customers, and I've found what I'm really great at is understanding people's needs and making recommendations to suit them.
NHM: What was your path to becoming a certified Advanced Cicerone?
BK: I started thinking about a Cicerone certification back when I was working in Boston as a way to distinguish myself and get serious about the field. I love to challenge myself and the syllabus and reading lists gave me a great road map to learning more about beer. I got my Certified
Beer Server certificate soon after in 2013 through an online test, and then became a Certified Cicerone in 2015 shortly after opening our Craft Beer Cellar store in Nashua. It's actually required for Craft Beer Cellar store owners to be Certified Cicerones.
After that, I decided I was sufficiently crazy and curious enough in equal measures to attempt the Advanced level, and I passed this year! The latter two certifications require in-person tests with essays, blind tastings, multiple choice exams, and, for the Advanced, oral interviews. I'm the first Advanced Cicerone in New Hampshire.
NHM: For those who don't know, what exactly is a Cicerone?
BK: The simple answer is it's someone who knows beer! All aspects, in and out, including service, beer styles & history, flavors, the brewing
process, and food pairing. It's pronounced like "Sis-uh-rohn" and means guide in Latin. Oftentimes they are industry experts, but not always. I can tell you from experience that it's someone who has studied hard and has learned a lot!
Editor's Note: Vino fans may be familiar with the "sommelier" title for trained wine experts. Cicerone is often considered the beer industry's equivalent.
NHM: Why did you choose to work in New Hampshire? What do you appreciate about the craft beer scene here?
BK: My parents lived here in Nashua and I was looking for the next chapter in my career when the opportunity to open the store arose. It's been a very exciting and vibrant time for beer in New Hampshire. Shortly before we opened, a law was passed making NH the first state to license smaller "nanobreweries." At the time, there were around 15 total craft breweries in the state. Now, the total number of craft breweries in the state is in the 60s, and we stock 15 of just the nanobrewery-licensed brewers. The nanos deliver their own beer, so it's great to work, get to know, and grow alongside all these small and local producers.
NHM: What’s your current favorite of the products at the Cellar?
BK: It's so hard to choose just one out of 600. Able Ebenezer Brewing Company of Merrimack just started putting their Victory Nor Defeat Double IPA in 16-oz. can four-packs, which is very exciting. Stoneface IPA from Newington is a fantastic beer and has been one of our best sellers since they started putting it out, so I have a soft spot for it. Although maybe it sells so well because I have a soft spot for it and think it's fantastic. Who knows? The important thing is that it's fantastic.
About the Store
NHM: What drink styles and how many brands do you carry at the Craft Beer Cellar?
BK: More than 600 beers, ciders, meads, and a small selection of local wine.
NHM: When did you open to the public?
BK: June 2014.
NHM: What sets you apart from other places in New Hampshire to shop for craft beer?
BK: The mission at Craft Beer Cellar is "Amazing Beer, Hospitality, and Education." We strive to have the best selection possible, while taking care of our customers' needs as best as we are able, and educating ourselves and our customers about this wonderful thing called beer.
NHM: What’s the breakdown of New Hampshire to non-New Hampshire brewers in the store?
BK: We have around 30 New Hampshire brewers currently in stock with a few more at times depending on their beer availability and around 100 from across the globe, weighted more heavily towards other New England states.
NHM: What are your most popular brands or products?
BK: We receive new items every week and new stuff tends to be very popular. We post on our social media accounts when new beers come in. Other currently popular breweries I haven't mentioned yet include Great North Aleworks from Manchester, Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Co. from North Conway, and Lord Hobo Brewing Company from Woburn, Mass.
NHM: How will your Advanced Cicerone certification play into the shopping experience at the Cellar?
BK: I want to help you find the right beer…or at least a good one! I hope my knowledge comes through just talking to people and helping them find
something new, fun, or interesting. I've definitely grown better at that through the knowledge I gained studying for the certifications. The weekly tastings on Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. are definitely fun because I get to educate and you have a beer in your hand. I also occasionally host events such as beer pairing dinners out at local restaurants. Check our website's calendar or sign up to our e-mail newsletter in store for the latest info on events like that. In addition, we offer private on-location or in-store tasting experiences and can assist with party planning. We also sell kegs and I can diagnose problems with your kegerator if you're in need!