S.O.S. with suds!

Cicerone Nathan Dale attends beer customers at ABC Fine Wine & Liquors in Boynton Beach.

A cicerone is to beer what a sommelier is to wine.

Earning the title requires extensive training and costly certification tests. But ABC Fine Wine & Spirits is willing to pay, if it means offering customers much-needed guidance in the field of beers.

ABC is not the only retailer reinforcing its sales team's beer expertise. At Total Wine & More locations, the selection of craft brews and imports has grown alongside knowledgeable staff.

"The beer aisle is like a black hole," says Total Wine sales associate Brandon Barnes. "Whenever you go back there, you're going to get stuck there with people asking you questions."


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So these chains, and a couple others, are bringing in their beer nerds who help us discern the difference between Belgian browns and lambics, stouts and porters.

ABC Fine Wine & Spirits
Wine consultants have assisted ABC customers for years, but now "beer sommeliers" will pay special attention to microbrews and rare imports. Regional manager Evan Kaye is a cicerone-certified beer server covering most South Florida locations, and trainee Nathan Dale works the Boynton Beach store. The in-store beer experts make craft-beer recommendations and suggest food pairings. A few times every year, ABC stores hold beer tastings including 15 to 20 breweries, attended by brewery representatives.

For dates and locations, visit ABCFWS.com.

Total Wine & More
For now, wine associates provide assistance in Total Wine's beer aisles, although Fort Lauderdale manager Ed Roberts says most stores have a resident "beer geek," and sometimes a supervisor considered "beer manager." He says all stores are working to train at least one employee under the cicerone program, but until then, the unofficial beer experts provide customer assistance and teach monthly beer classes in-store.

For class schedules and locations, visit TotalWine.com.

The Fresh Market
This ever-growing chain of gourmet supermarkets takes a casual approach to its beer selection: Don't know if you'll like something? Don't buy a six-pack – create your own! Although the chain promotes its mix-and-match, do-it-yourself policy, Fort Lauderdale manager Jeff Hunt says each store has a manager designated to help with beer questions. Fresh Market often carries hard-to-find brews out of stock elsewhere.

For locations, visit TheFreshMarket.com.

Whole Foods Market
The original natural food market may not have in-house cicerones, but store employees lead beer tastings and classes in South Florida locations. At a national level, the chain gives beer such importance that it developed a beer blog touting recipes and how-to videos, along with news on the most current selections. Whole Foods is known for stocking gluten-free beer, which is vital to guzzlers with allergies or gastrointestinal issues. Rarities can be easily found here.

For locations, visit WholeFoodsMarket.com.