An Interview With Master Cicerone Rich Higgins

With the city’s annual rodeo of beer events, Ryan Conklin of Euclid Hall fame had a chance to sit down and chat with Rich Higgins, master cicerone, covering everything from snacks to the laws of physics.

Denver Off The Wagon: How did you get into the Cicerone program?
Rich Higgins: Brewing at Thirsty Bear Brewing Co, SF. In 2008 I was certified, and by 2010 I passed the Masters.

DOTW: How did you prepare for the Masters test
RH: 10 years. Every beer, every place. It was a long journey.

DOTW: What made you want to take it to the Masters level?
RH: Really enjoying talking about beer and food, and love of the infectious passion that goes along with it. And, by nature, masters gives more validity to what you’re saying.

DOTW: What is possible with that high of a level of certification?
RH: It’s really about extending the market. Money is still scarce, but we are defining it as we go. Consulting work for anyone and everyone translates into helping people enjoy beer more, and making more money. This includes each level of the four tier system, the brewer, distributor, vendor/restaurant, and the drinker.

DOTW: I am beginning my preparations to take the Master Cicerone test in the fall of 2013. If I am to pass, how will attaining Master Cicerone change my world, generally speaking?
RH: A whole lot more chicks. Other than that, it’s a new responsibility. You are now an ambassador.

DOTW: What is your favorite part of the job (other than the chicks)?
RH: Introducing beer epiphanies. Specifically,  working with businesses to introduce beer to new audiences.

DOTW: Everyone always wants to know what your favorite beer is, so let’s hear your answer.
RH: Depends on mood and what I’m eating. North Coast Old Stock Ale is a favorite. In terms of style, I can tell you what I do not like. Not a fan of American Wheat.

DOTW: What trend in beer are you most excited about?
RH: Session beers. It’s about curating the experience. It becomes important to express the transcendent experience, and how to serve such beer.

DOTW: What trend in beer is most annoying?
RH: IBU trend. The perception of bitterness is what’s really important.

DOTW: What beer community are you most excited about?
RH: New England. The aspect people know least about beer in New England is tradition. North Carolina is exciting, too.

DOTW: What beer community is overrated or are you disappointed in?
RH: I used to be a little disappointed in Seattle, but there are some great new upstarts that are breathing life into the beer scene there.

DOTW: Thoughts on corporate craft beer?
RH: Very good for outreach. It helps get craft beer to drinkers that we normally wouldn’t reach.

DOTW: With a 3/8″ internal diameter beer line and a run of 108 feet with a rise of 36 feet, what is the applied pressure that needs to be set at the regulator?
RH: You’d want a beer pump and might consider increasing the hose diameter and introduce a chocker at the faucet.

DOTW: What do you drink when you are not drinking beer?
RH: Drinking lots of white wine, ciders.

DOTW: Let’s get into more favorites. What is your favorite whiskey?
RH: High West from Utah.

DOTW: Favorite cocktail?
RH: Corpse reviver #2.

DOTW: As far a cities go, which one is your favorite to explore?
RH: San Francisco.

DOTW: And your favorite city in regards to beer?
RH: Wherever I am. Local beer is important.

DOTW: How about your favorite city for cocktails?
RH: New York City.

DOTW: What is your favorite food/dish?
RH: Pretzels and mustard. And chocolate. I am also fond of tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches.

DOTW: Thoughts on?..
IPA – RH: IPA is great and growing vertically as well as horizontal.
Sour – RH: We need more, and more that are affordable.
Session beers – RH: We need more.

DOTW: Let’s play a little word association.
Black IPA – RH: Good when cold.
White IPA – RH: Excellent when spice prevails over hops.
Overplayed trend in craft beer – RH: Coffee in dark beers. Think coffee in light beers.
Under-appreciated aspect of beer – RH: Yeast nuances.
Craft Big Three (NB, Sierra, Boston Beer) – RH: Commitment to quality.
North Carolina – RH: Up and coming. Exciting.

You can find Rich this weekend the morning after all the festivities at Lou’s Food Bar, 11:30am sharp. We are happy to have him in our city, and beer around the world is just plain happy to have him.

Rich Higgins Breakfast at Lou's Food Bar

About Ryan Conklin

Let Ryan Conklin's love of outstanding food and drink served with a healthy portion of hospitality guide your culinary and spiritual curiosities as he introduces you to everything from his side of the bar. He brings over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry as he shares with you bartending and beer events, cocktail recipes and serving tips as well as beer porn and his perspective on the beer industry. Ryan is a bartender, writer, and photographer as well as a Certified Cicerone.