Eat & Drink

The Beer Man

Ryan Conklin makes his bid to become a certified beer master.

November 2012

Most days you can find Ryan Conklin behind the bar at Euclid Hall, where he oversees the extensive beer program. Conklin is also working toward a larger goal: He’s quickly ascending the three-level cicerone (that’s beer-speak for “serious expert”) accreditation program, which identifies the industry’s top professionals. Conklin currently holds a level two certification (think of it as a bachelor’s degree)—and in 2013 he’ll go for his master’s. If he passes, Conklin will be one of only five master cicerones in the world. Impressed? Raise a glass.

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How many cicerones in Denver work behind a bar?
Two that I know of. Most of them work at breweries and distributorships. Having the beer expert on-site is way more valuable than just having the beer expert in the community. You need to bring the knowledge to the people instead of the people to the knowledge.

What are the main differences between level one, level two, and master cicerone?
Level one is general knowledge covered generally. Level two is specific knowledge covered generally. And master is specific knowledge covered specifically. Level one is 60 multiple-choice questions in 30 minutes. Level two is 180 multiple-choice questions, three essay questions, and a 12-stage tasting. And to prepare for master, you should be able to write an essay for every single level two question.

What about Colorado lends itself to such great brewing?
Colorado has been so successful because there’s no mistake about what we love. We love our state, we love the people we live with, and we love the things we do. Beer is something that [most] everyone enjoys after a hard day of work or during a hard day of play. You’ve got the rivers, the mountains, the skiing, biking, and exploring. It’s not about sitting and drinking at a bar; it’s about living an active lifestyle and celebrating it through the beer.

Which styles of beer do you enjoy?
Belgian Style Farmhouse—anything that’s going to be golden in color and Belgian in thought. Can a Belgian beer be from Colorado? The style can for sure. Belgian triples, Belgian goldens, and Belgian saisons are my favorites. 

What’s in your fridge right now?
I have three everyday beers: Avery Joe’s Pilsner, Boulevard Tank 7, and Lefthand Milk Stout. 

If someone recently moved here, which beers are must-trys?
1. Great Divide Hercules—a rich, malty double IPA.
2. Avery Oud Floris—their sour program is something to really keep an eye on.
3. Crooked Stave Surette Barrel Aged Saison—it’s the overall concept of Crooked Stave that makes it a beer you must try.