For nigh on two years, Rich Coffey was the only person in Washington certified as a Cicerone—the beer industry’s expert certification akin to wine’s sommelier program. However Coffey has mostly used his hard-earned knowledge base in recreational settings; he worked previously as the chef at Madison Park Cafe, then went to the kitchen at Restaurant Bea, though some kitchen restructuring caused the restaurant’s owners to regretfully cut him loose. This is actually a good thing, says Coffey, because he’s merging his chef and beer backgrounds to strike out on his own. Coffey’s new business is called Estaminet, a term used to describe small beer cafes in France and Belgium. Look for his beer-themed pop-up dinners to surface in the coming weeks (keep tabs on them here).
Here, five beer-related questions for Rich Coffey.
Do you ever get tired of explaining to people what a Cicerone is?
It depends. I have had some folks who are a bit skeptical about titles in relation to beer, and I don’t really try to convert those types. But it’s great to talk about it with people who are genuinely interested and can perceive the value in what the program does, which is offering the best quality beer and service to customers that we possibly can.
What are some of your favorite beers or breweries in Washington right now?
In no particular order, I like Big Al, Schooner Exact, Fremont, Elysian, Silver City, Sound, probably some others I forget right now…
Do you have any beer pet peeves?
Beer being served in chilled shaker pints.
What’s the most underrated style of beer?
Pilsner lager. Granted there are a great many lousy lagers out there, but when it’s done well it is a very refined and elegant beer.
Finish this sentence: Craft beer in cans is…
If someone told you they don’t like beer very much, what’s the beer you would give them to change their minds?
It depends on the type of drinker. For example, if they said they normally drink big austere red wines, I might give them an Imperial Stout. If they go for white wine, then maybe give them more of a golden ale. If they are a whiskey lover, I’d give them something bourbon barrel aged. Ultimately, I like to let people have their own kind of party, and not be too pushy in trying to convert them. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t share how I like to party, which is with craft beer.