First Beer Experiences – Nigel Sadler


Nigel is a former award-winning brewer. He qualified with the IBD as a maltster, brewer and distiller. He was the first accredited Beer Academy Sommelier in 2011 becoming Beer Sommelier of the Year in 2012. He now tutors for both the IBD and Beer Academy amongst others. Follow him @NigelSommelier.

When did you have your first taste of beer?

Though I had been drinking beer for a while in the mid-late 70s, mainly Ben Truman et al, I first "tasted" beer after a 1984 "Faults &Taints" class, run at Brewlab by Keith Thomas, when it was still based in London. It was Keith who highlighted many things that most of us tend to overlook. It opened my eyes so to speak.

What was your impression of beer before then?

Prior to this beer was just a drink to have with mates in the pub. I was into Real Ale as a sociable thing, enjoying beer and banter with friends and strangers alike at festivals.

What was your reaction to that first sip?

The first ever sip of beer was at a wedding in the 60s with party sevens in abundance! Can't recall enjoying it. I next encountered beer in the mid-late 70s as I mentioned above but not with any great enthusiasm.

How have your thoughts about beer changed since then?

My thoughts have changed greatly as the beer world has developed massively since my first pub experience of beer. Beers have developed in complexity and the plethora of styles certainly warrants a degree of knowledge comparable to that in wine and spirits. Too long looked down upon as a poor relation by many. However, we do need to be wary of developing a snobbish attitude, particularly in the "craft" arena. Wine successfully shed that image back in the 80s with the arrival of Jilly Goolden, Oz Clarke and others; gone were the bow ties, tweed jackets and cellars, in came accessibility and the idea of "enjoying" wine of all levels. There's a beer for everyone out there and the best beer, to quote my chum Professor Charlie Bamforth, is "the one you enjoy most".

What beer would you recommend to someone who wants to try it for the first time, and why?

Introducing people to beer is always a hard one and I can't say one approach suits all. I will usually ask what they like to drink now, whether wine, cider, spirit or soft drink and work on from there. Having training in wine, spirits and cider is a big bonus in this approach. I see it as a series of stepping stones and needs to be done in the right manner I believe. 

Mike Hampshire