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This Raleighite’s high beer IQ is raising the bar. House of Hops bartender Frankie Frank is certified in beer knowledge and eager to spread the love of a good ol’ brewski.
Meet “your local beer gremlin”: Frankie Frank, a low-key craft beer enthusiast and first-level “Certified Beer Server” cicerone (aka beer expert—think like sommelier to wine). Frank is well-versed in the basics of brewing, beer flavor profiles and pairings, and the fundamentals of serving beer. With a knack for customer service, a discerning taste for “weird”-yet-traditional brews (faves are “pickled”—like kvass—and “barnyard” flavors with hay, horsehair and other earthy notes—though not necessarily together), and the knowledge to back it all up, Frank’s trained palate and passion for helping people discover more about beer serve them well for success in their profession. As Frank says, “Beer is meant to be shared.” We couldn’t agree more—so we bellied up to Frank’s bar at House of Hops at its Northwest Raleigh hops spot to talk cicerone certification, top recs and more. Cheers! houseofhopsnc.com; @yourlocalbeergremlin
OK, we’ve all heard of sommeliers, but school us on cicerones. I tell people it’s like a beer sommelier—I specialize in the service and knowledge of beer. I learned about it originally while reading The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolutionbut actually took the test while taking care of the beer section at Total Wine.
What originally sparked your interest in all things beer—and going from bartender to beer expert? I’ll be the first to say, I’m not a beer expert. The Pivní Fest in Brno was my first introduction to craft beer, and I fell in love with both the beer and the people who made and sold it. I ended up taking the cicerone test to understand beer better so I could better serve my customers and they could have confidence in my craft beer knowledge.
Unlike sommeliers, cicerones are rarer. Why do you think that is? Between the overall newness (with 30 years between the creation of the official sommelier course and the cicerone) and the study, time and money that the test requires, in addition to the (incorrect) idea that beer is somehow ‘lowbrow’ in comparison with wine, it leads to less participation.
So we have to ask: What are you, as a Certified Beer Server, drinking right now? I’ve been on a kvass kick recently (thanks to my hometown brewery Benchtop Brewing and Fonta Flora Brewery), but lagers, pilsners, stouts and saisons are my year-round go-tos.
What are some of your fave NC breweries? Black Fire Brewing, Fonta Flora Brewery, Zillicoah Beer Company, Eurisko Beer Company, Radar Brewing Company, Wye Hill Brewing and Burial Beer Co. all do a steady mix of both classic and new styles, in addition to having fantastic brewery spaces.
And your go-to recs? Bhramari Brewing Company’s Karakasa Obake rice lager, Fonta Flora’s Lake James lager, Bill’s Brewing Co.’s Christmas Pants winter warmer, New Anthem Beer Project’s Broken Tree barleywine, Benchtop’s Proven Theory (from Virginia, but they are my IPA go-to recommendation)… I could go on…
Why is helping others understand beer and find brews they love important to you ?I’ve always been a customer service person, and getting people good beer to the point that they just trust me to pick or pour them something is rewarding to me. Nothing in the work world makes me smile as much as when people just tell their friends, ‘Just trust them, they’ve never steered me wrong.’
You’re studying for your Level 2 certification now. What’s the end goal once you hit Level 4 certification as Master Cicerone? I would like to start out as a beer orderer for a bottle shop or for a hospitality service (hotel, private airline, cruise ship, etc). Eventually, I would like to work as a travel agent making bespoke craft “beer-cations”—something I already do, but not for money—just because I love it.❧This Raleighite’s high beer IQ is raising the bar. House of Hops bartender Frankie Frank is certified in beer knowledge and eager to spread the love of a good ol’ brewski.
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