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Jane Peyton with a flute

22nd February 2022

Introducing: Jayne Peyton - award-winning drinks educator, writer, broadcaster, pub expert, and public speaker

She is the founder of the School of Booze – a training, education events company, and consultancy specializing in alcoholic drinks. School of Booze was named as one of the Top 100 SMEs in London & the South-East Business Awards 2021. Jane was the UK’s first accredited Pommelier (cider sommelier) and Britain's first Beer Sommelier of the Year. She is a former Imbibe Magazine Drinks Educator of the Year. Jane is the instigator and driving force of the UK’s annual national beer day – Beer Day Britain (June 15th). For her beer work she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement from Britain’s Parliamentary Beer Group, and has won several other professional awards. Jane is the author of several non-fiction books including ‘Drink: A Tippler’s Miscellany’, The Philosophy of Gin’ and ‘The Philosophy of Beer’. She is the Drinks Ambassador for the Love British Food organization and co-host of the Food Talk Show podcast.

Q1: What drew you to learning about and teaching others about all things liquid ?

When I was a child I wanted to be a teacher. Little did I know that as an adult my wish would come true with a specialist subject of alcoholic drinks! I am fascinated by alcohol, especially the magical transformation of a foodstuff such as cereal, apples, grapes, and honey into an intoxicating beverage. The history, culture and place alcohol has in our lives also fascinates me. I have a yearn to learn and I studied through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the Beer & Cider Academy and became officially accredited in those subjects. Now I write, talk, educate, train, entertain, advise, advocate and enlighten about my favourite subject. One of my specialities is matching food with alcoholic drinks which I can do virtually in my head, but the practical research is so much more fun and definitely tastier!

Q2: What is a Beer Sommelier and Cider Pommelier ?

I am an accredited beer sommelier (the UK’s first beer sommelier of the year) and I was also the UK’s first accredited pommelier – a cider sommelier. My accreditations are through the Beer & Cider Academy which is the internationally recognised body for awarding professional qualifications in beer and cider.

To become accredited entails taking several courses and passing exams. These are followed by a practical examination where learners must identify beer or cider styles through blind tasting including describing their characteristics. Food matching ability is an important element of the practical. So is proof of the learner being an advocate or ambassador for beer or cider in elevating its reputation in the eyes of the general public.

Unlike a wine sommelier who is usually an employee of a restaurant or hotel, beer sommeliers and pommeliers tend to work for producers, brands, or are educators or writers like me. My qualifications as a beer sommelier and cider pommelier are definitely a conversation starter! People are invariably surprised to learn that a person can be a sommelier of a drink other than wine. Unfortunately, among the British general public there is a widely held perception that beer and cider are low value products so having professional qualifications demonstrates that both are worthy of learning about. It is especially relevant in Britain to change this perception of beer and cider because both drinks are so important to the culture and the economy. Beer is Britain’s official national alcoholic drink, and cider is a close second. Britain had more influence on the spread of beer around the world, and on the styles of beer currently brewed around the world than any other brewing nation. The world’s best brewing and distilling barley is grown in Britain, and British grown hops give a delicate complexity to beer that those grown in other countries do not. Britain is a leading brewing nation. And when it comes to cider, 54% of apples grown in this nation go to make cider, and Britain is the world’s biggest producer, and consumer of cider. Beer and cider deserve more respect!

Q3: Locally produced drinks are becoming more and more popular – why do you think that is? / what’s new?

A short answer is that they often taste better than other products! The longer answer is that buying local is connected with the resistance to the dominance of industrially produced food and drinks, often made by faceless global corporations, and buyers deciding that they want to choose something made on a smaller scale by a person they can meet, in a location they can visit.

Locally produced drinks tend to be made by individuals who have a passion to create the best tasting product possible. They cannot compete with large corporations on price but they certainly can on quality and integrity. They can also compete by the makers being part of the local community which they are often active in. Local producers usually hire locally based employees, they collaborate with other local producers. Very importantly, with smaller producers, the money they generate benefits the local economy unlike some of the large faceless corporations where profits flow out of the country and do not have a wider benefit.

In terms of what is new in the drinks sector, the No & Low alcohol and adult soft drink market is dynamic and continuing to expand, especially in beer, botanical drinks and alternatives to spirits. At present, this is mostly for home-drinking as most hospitality venues have not yet responded to this growth sector and are not offering customers an adult and premium alternative to alcohol.