Red, white and amber
Heady brew: The right beer can lift a meal. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Before a meal, Robert Glaab recommends drinking a pilsner, a beer that also surprisingly goes well with fruit-topped shortcake and a dollop of cream.
Glaab is a beer sommelier, and from his perspective the drink known for its simple content of barley, hops, water and yeast is more than something to be served at a bar.
The bitter taste of a pilsner, for example, "stimulates the stomach juices" before a meal, says the manager of his family's private brewery in Germany.
Four years ago, the 47-year-old took a course to become a beer sommelier. At special restaurant events he seeks out the beer that matches best with various foods and talks about the various beer varieties and the nuances of their taste.
The chefs in the restaurant attached to the Glaab brewery cook with beer.
"Generally speaking, a light beer goes well with light meat and dark beer goes with dark meat," Glaab says.
Holding a glass of wheat beer up to the light, he remarks on its "strong, gold-yellow colour with a fine yeasty opaqueness", saying it goes well with the main course he has ordered - fillet of trout over a wheat beer-cardamom foam.
Glaab reaches for his beer and takes a sip. Using a vocabulary similar to a wine sommelier's, he describes the beer's "fruity aromas of banana and ripe apricot intermingled with light tones of clove – very fizzy and refreshing", then highlights its "soft and round body, discreet bitter notes at the finish, soft and harmonically balanced, full of character".
Glaab studied to become a beer sommelier at the Doemens Academy in Munich, which has offered the course since 2004. People from all over the world - about 90 per cent of them men - sign up for the two-week course, which costs €3000 ($A3740).
"Most of the people who take the course already have had something to do with beer and would like to get more into it," said Sandra Strobel of the association of certified beer sommeliers in Austria.
Subjects covered include finding the right beer to go with various foods, beer and health, beer and cheese, and even beer and chocolate.
Glaab has little inhibition when it comes to pairing beer unconventionally with various foods.
Strawberry shortcake with cream eaten with a pilsner to wash it down is a combination he identified as a student.
He discovered his taste for beer while serving in the German army. Now he is the chief executive of his family's nearly 270-year-old private brewery, which has been in his family's hands for nine generations.