Mirella Amato, photo by Laura Brehaut

Behind the Brew with Mirella Amato

Mirella Amato is both a Master Cicerone and a Doemens Bier Sommelier, has completed advanced brewing certificates at Maska Laboratories and UC Davis, passed the WSET Intermediate Certificate in Wine & Spriits with honors, and is a National Level BJCP judge. She also authored the award-winning book Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer…Even More. Now Mirella has brought her extensive knowledge to her new Mastering Beer & Food Pairing course. I sent her a few questions to learn more about her and this valuable new beer resource.

How did you first become interested in craft beer?

I had a bit of an unusual experience in that I got into craft beer as soon as I started drinking. My drinking buddy at the time had spent some time in England and so we sought out bitters and other English-style brews. In those days, craft beer wasn’t well known and it was only available at specialized pubs. When spending time with other friends, I found it weird that they drank the same beer by the pitcher all night when there were so many other beer flavours to explore. I spent a lot of time in those years dragging friends out to the pub to try new beers and told myself that, once I retired, I would write a book about craft beer so that more people could learn about these tasty brews.

Your beer credentials are really impressive. What drives you to keep learning about beer?

Beer is really interesting in that it’s super-approachable and super-complex at the same time. One of my favourite things about beer, beyond the fact that it is delicious, is that there’s always more to learn. I started learning because I wanted to better understand beer and, now that I am a consultant, I find it important to continue to expand my horizons. I believe expertise is a combination of learning and experience, so I’m always looking for opportunities to grow in both areas.

Why did you decide to create your Master Beer & Food Pairing course?

It’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while. There really wasn’t a how-to resource on pairing beer with food around so I thought it would be a useful contribution. Most food pairing resources present pairing rules or pairing examples, or a combination of both. My goal, with this course, was to provide a step-by-step method people can use to consistently put together good beer and food pairings. It was a huge undertaking and it took years to figure out exactly what to include and how to present it and I’m very proud of the result!

Who is the target audience for your course?

My target audience is anyone who works with beer or enjoys it regularly. Pairing beer with food is such a great skill to have and it takes beer appreciation to new levels, whether it’s for personal enjoyment or to add value to the customer experience. The only prerequisite knowledge you need is an understanding of beer styles. You should also be comfortable tasting and describing beer flavours to get the most out of this course.

Can you tell us a bit about the course? What topics does it cover? How long does it take? How will it benefit people?

The course has five sections. It starts with a breakdown of beer and food traits. Because food pairing involves finding harmonies between beer and food traits, it’s important to understand how to identify and break down those traits before diving in. The next two sections are basic techniques, followed by pairings in practice. By the end of those three sections, participants will be able to understand exactly how to consistently put together good pairings. There are also tips in the practical section on how to put together and host a beer dinner. The fourth section gets into advanced techniques and then the final section is on presentation, to make sure pairings are always presented in their best light. Each section includes quizzes, worksheets, assignments and homework that help reinforce and confirm content. I don’t advise rushing through the course. For someone who already has some experience pairing beer with food, five weeks is a good amount of time to go through the content. Someone who is new to pairing might want to complete sections 1-3 in three weeks, then take some time to practice before diving into advanced techniques. I provide schedules that participants can use to plan their study as well as tips for success because many are new to online learning. Anyone taking this course will strengthen their understanding of beer and food pairing and gain confidence in their beer and food pairing skills.  

What’s your favorite beer and food pairing?

A huge pandemic craving of mine has been pizza. I’ve tasted all kinds of combinations and landed on a four-cheese pizza, made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone, a sharp cheddar and a sharp blue cheese. I love to pair it with an Irish red-style ale. Although IPA is a great pairing for sharp blue cheese, with the addition of the tomato sauce and crust, the Irish red is a better pairing. It contrasts the sharpness in the cheese, and bridges with the sweeter notes in the tomato sauce as well as the bread notes of the pizza crust. This combination has become a bit of a comfort food for me of late.

About the author

Keith Adams is the founder of BeerSelfie.com and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as @grubulub.