People often tell Paul Daley he has the best job in the world. But, 10 years ago his job didn’t really exist. Sipping beers, touring around the country and walking others through the glorious ins and outs of the beer realm, sounds more like a paid vacation as opposed to vocation.
But it’s not all scoffing schooners for the Malt Shovel Beer Ambassador. We caught up at Deus in Stanmore for a few cold ones to find out what exactly his job entails, why he became a Cicerone (ultimate beer expert) and how he’s using his skills to help bars get ahead in a big way.
The best kind of buzz
After working in a bookstore from the age of 16, then toying with the idea of joining the army, Paul more or less found himself pouring beers in one of the roughest pubs in Umina on the Central Coast. “It was the kind of pub where every Friday night the local rugby team would come in and get into a massive brawl, then all somehow get up the next day and go play a game.”
From the stickiest of beer soaked carpets, to fisty cuffs on a Friday night and sky high to fine dining beer matched dinners with the best in the business, there’s not much Paul hasn’t seen. There’s no pretentious, Betoota Advocate style craft beer puns to slosh around here either. With over 10 years in the game, he’s genuinely just a big beer nerd with a thick ‘coasty’ accent to complement.
Importantly, he cares about what he does, and while he’s worked for almost all the major distributors in Australia, it’s the little things that ring true for him. “Sometimes, I go away camping and catch myself sitting there on the beach drinking beers – it does make me feel like I have the best job in the world. But, it’s important to not forget what you’re here to do. I think we need people who are genuine about beer involved in the industry, not just people who have come over to sell you something then rack off. You need people who are quite passionate about it.
Knowledge is delicious power
Before meeting Paul, I really had no idea what a Cicerone was. If we’re being honest, I maybe didn’t even know how to pronounce it but genuinely thought it might have something to do with Game of Thrones. So you can imagine my surprise when I turn up to Deus in Stanmore and there stands Paul – all chinos and denim and a perfectly manicured moustache.
Turns out, a Cicerone is just a fancy name for your modern day beer expert, not unlike a wine sommelier, just more RM Williams and less pressed suits I guess.
“When you work in beer it’s good to have a deeper understanding of how it’s made, the taste profiles and what you need to do to ensure the product is always at its best, from start to finish. Once you know this stuff, you can have more detailed conversations with people in the industry.”
You also get to go around tasting beer, which sounds like an adults version of winning the golden ticket to the Wonka Factory.
“Sounds easy, but becoming a Cicerone takes a lot of studying. Many people that sit the exam don’t pass. You’ve got to memorise 90 different beer styles and their flavour profiles. Because part of the exam is they stick a beer in front of you and they’ll give you the options between one of two things; and you’ve got to name what style of beer it is by tasting it and looking at it, and then you can get an idea of what it’s like. I didn’t sleep a wink the night before I sat my exam”
Helping the small guys get ahead in a big way
While we’re hanging out at Deus, Paul naturally just gravitates over to the bar and starts checking their beer system without even being asked. We’re chatting away, drinking our beers, at the same time he’s unscrewing a bunch of nuts, bolts and pipes to make sure everything’s in perfect working order. He makes sure the bartender gets a first-hand look at the process as he goes.
“That’s a big part of being a Cicerone and it’s not necessarily part of my job but I just want to help these guys get ahead. A beer brewer can make a fantastic beer, but if the venue has a terrible draft beer system, which doesn’t get cleaned, it can ruin the whole flavour profile of the beer and that doesn’t reflect well on anyone.”
Beer drinkers are well on top of what they’re drinking now with a powerful bank of their own beer knowledge, says Paul. “If bars want to get ahead, they have to know more than the average consumer. At Malt Shovel, we are very focused on helping bar, restaurant and cafe owners understand beer, the different styles and how beer as a product can add to their bottom line.
There are so many different styles and breweries now that people can easily get overwhelmed or have questions for the bartenders so it’s part of Paul’s job to help staff navigate this space and get them confident to talk about beers in a way that’s inspiring.
“I also help staff pour beer correctly while teaching them about how beer should and shouldn’t taste and why. That way they should be able to pick up any issues with the beer before serving it to customers. We can also help run beer and food matching dinners and other educational events for them. Working with beer brands like Panhead Custom Ales, Little Creatures or Furphy allows me to not only help educate consumers but also those that sell beer so the overall experience can be better for everyone,” says Paul.
This year, Paul’s getting back to the books – determined to upgrade his already impressive beer knowledge – by doing his Fundamentals of Brewing and Packaging through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. He assures me, it’s not because he’s a nerd that loves learning (though he is a bit of that) but because he wants to continue helping others navigate the ever growing and changing wide world of beer.
If you’d like Paul or one of the other beer-nerd legends he works with to come out and lend some of their big beer brains to you and your team – you can get in touch here.