You can see the wine snobs turning up their noses at the mere notion. Pairing beer with food? Oooh, how tricky that must be. Should I accompany my meat-in-a-bun main course with a Bud or a Bud Light?
Such disrespect stings those who prefer their fine meal served alongside a stout malt-and-hops beverage as opposed to a glass of sauvignon blanc. Then again, it’s tough for beer connoisseurs to strike back when their wine-sniffing counterparts can earn what amounts to a Ph.D. in oenology.
“The thing is,” Mike Shetler says, “there is no formal certification for beer sommeliers. Anyone can call himself one.”
Shetler is the general manager at Sage in Aria, having recently been promoted to director of beverage for the resort. He’s also a champion of beer, having become an aficionado back in his undergrad days at the University of Iowa. “I was amazed that there were all these nuances and flavors [in beer], so I started reading and tasting.”
Eventually, Shetler’s thirst for beer knowledge took him back to school; he went through and completed two programs—Cicerone and BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). However, unlike a master sommelier, Shetler can’t flaunt an official title as a “beer expert.”
That doesn’t take away from the fact that he knows his beer—particularly artisanal brew, which, he says, is defined as “made by a brewer using the best possible ingredients, and often in smaller batches than big commercial beers.”
Shetler recently paired some of his favorite artisanal brews with four dishes from Sage creator chef Shawn McClain—and no, they didn’t come off his backyard grill.
(Note: All pairings are available at Sage.)