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Their numbers may still be small but there is growing interest among Japanese men and women in becoming licensed beer tasters.

Since a certification exam was instituted 12 years ago, more than 5,000 people have passed the test given by the Japan Craft Beer Association and become certified beer tasters.

The association, based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, was founded by Ryoji Oda in July 1994 to popularize and promote beer tasters and craft beers in Japan. It also holds seminars to teach students how to evaluate beer.

A sister group called the Beer Taster Nonprofit Organization also aims to promote the culture, history and technology of beer.

The JCBA has seen a rise in the number of exam applicants since 2003.

Oda said people in their 30s stand out at seminars, adding that they are part of the generation who were exposed to beer during their tours abroad, where they discovered brews different in color and taste from those in Japan, which attracted them to the seminars.

About 30 people, many of them restaurant and brewery employees, attended a seminar in late March in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

A 26-year-old employee of a department store in Yokohama said she wanted to put a licensed beer taster badge on her store uniform and work at the counter selling domestic and foreign alcoholic beverages.

A 54-year-old company employee who also professed to like to drink alcohol said, “I want to be able to talk about the various flavors of different beers.”

The seminar began with a lecture on the brewing process and history of beer. The participants learned the classifications of beer, such as old ale and stout, followed by the main topic of how to taste beer.

The instructor said, “The most appropriate temperature of beer is around 12 C if you want to enjoy the aroma and flavor. You won’t be able to know the taste if your beer is too cold.”

He instructed his students to pour a half glassful of beer, like wine, and then to check its aroma.

The participants sampled more than 20 different beers. But some found they lost their sense of smell after repeated samplings.

Upon completion of six hours of seminars, participants are ready to take the certification exam, which consists of a tasting evaluation and a written test.

A 35-year-old woman from Tokyo’s Suginami Ward who passed the test said, “Beer is pleasurable if you examine it closely.”

Oda said getting used to the aroma is the best way to evaluate beer.

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