Learning About (Drinking) Beer

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” These are wise words from Martin Luther King Jr. While some people may not think that this would apply to the world of craft beer, I beg to differ. The more that you know about something, the more you can appreciate it. Beer is part science and part art (two subjects that I took in school) and if you really want to understand & enjoy it, you need to study it. There are many ways in which you can increase your beer intelligence and if you drink enough beer it should help build character (at least that’s what I tell myself). So let’s take a look at Dave Nuttall’s Beer School and see if we can increase our Beer IQ.

A Little About Dave

Back in the 80’s Dave got himself a part-time job working at the ALCB (Alberta Liquor Control Board, this was before it joined with the Gaming Control Branch to form the AGLC). It was here where Dave was first introduced to the different and flavourful beer coming out of Europe. There was not a lot of variety back then but this was enough to start a lifelong interest in the world’s greatest drink.

Homer Simpson Beer

I don’t have any actual pics of Dave so I thought that I would use this. Come on, there’s beer & thinking involved here so it is somewhat relevant, right?!


In the 90’s Dave decided to take his beer-appreciation to another level with homebrewing. We here in YYC are lucky enough to have a great club (the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers) where you can get all of the help & support that you need. I have said it before & I’ll say it again, learning how beer is made only increases your appreciation for beer.

During this time Dave’s knowledge of beer turned some heads and he picked up a few beer-focused gigs. One of these was as a writer for Calgary’s premiere food & beverage publication Culinare Magazine. The other was as the head judge for Alberta Beer Festivals. Side Note: I was lucky enough to judge the Pilsner category with Dave at last year’s Calgary International Beer Fest.

Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP)

Over the years Dave’s access to different beer grew and all the while he sought out whatever piece of information on beer he could get his hands on.


In 2011 he decided to consolidate all of his bits of beer knowledge and fill in the gaps. He enrolled himself in the BJCP in order to give himself some sort of formal education.

For those of you who don’t know, the BJCP is a program that was founded in 1985 to bring some order to the beer world. It provides people with the necessary tools to evaluate, rank and provide constructive feedback for beer styles.

This method of judging is common in homebrewing competitions since the feedback that a brewer receives from the panel of judges can be helpful when it comes to improving your skills. Professional festivals have seen the benefit of including this form of judging; remember, all brewers are curious about how their peers receive their creations and should constantly be striving to improve their art form.

Beer School

Dave came up with the idea for Beer School a while back. He was thinking about how helpful it would be to have more people with a solid knowledge in beer involved in the judging at the Calgary International Beerfest. So in early 2014 he started to put together a course that would provide an overview of what he learned from the BJCP.

Since there is so much information involved with the BJCP and on beer in general you can expect there to be further off-shots that will build on the foundation that Dave has laid out.


Dave runs his Beer School under the Alberta Beer Festivals umbrella.


The Lowdown

The current program is made up of four parts. Three of them are in the classroom. Topics such as the history & culture of beer styles, how beer is made and how to judge them properly (ABV, IBU, SRM, etc) are covered in there.

The best thing about this school is that they actually let you drink during class! (When I tried this in high school the teachers did not approve.) But here Dave will not only allow it, he encourages it!   After all, reading & discussing beer styles is great but you can’t learn about beer without actually experiencing it. How could you understand the differences in flavour or how they would pair well with various foods if you have never even tried the beer itself? If anything, it is a good excuse to use when someone bugs you about your beer drinking, “it’s for the sake of education I tell ya!”

The final class takes place at one of the local Calgary craft breweries where the students go on a guided tour. I have been inside a bunch of breweries and gone on some really cool tours (I am obsessed). These help you to take all of the knowledge that you just digested about how beer is made and lets you see where & how the brewing process plays out. On top of this you will be able to ask professional brewers questions about the “ins & outs” of brewing; they do it for a living after all.

Details on Upcoming Courses

The next Beer School course begins on January 15 and runs for four consecutive Thursdays up to February 5. The class sizes are kept to 12 people, but Dave will add on more courses depending on demand. There’ll be further courses during February, March, etc. leading up to May’s Calgary International Beerfest.

The price to enroll is $150, this includes all of the beer, food, etc. that you get to enjoy while in class. So sign up and lets raise a cheers to learning about local craft beer!

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About adamseguin

Basically I am a craft beer junkie. Alberta has a great market for craft beer and this blog is meant to help grow the local craft beer scene. I also do some some work in the local beer industry & offer consulting on the side.

3 thoughts on “Learning About (Drinking) Beer

  1. Education is always a good way to appreciate anything more. I personally really disliked how the BJCP teaches beer judging though. It should not be judging which beer tastes exactly like the style definition but which beer actually tastes better. Every year in BC I watch less good beer win at the BC Beer Awards because they better fit the style. It is just such a backwards way to do things. Part of the reason I will never get the certification personally.

      • Exactly. Just because it is different shouldn’t mean it isn’t better than a rigid definition. It is rigid definitions that held Germany to only making certain beers by law and people’s rigid belief to what beer is (aka yellow fizzy lager) to the masses that holds good or great beer back.

        But then it is my education in craft beer (given self taught so far) that has brought me to this opinion. I know many disagree with me especially here in Vancouver but hey without a squeaky wheel things get boring and things get stagnant haha.

        Keep fighting the good fight and same to Dave!

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