Certified Cicerone Mikey Fishbone had already been a big beer fan for a couple of years when he got his first restaurant job as a runner in Bristol, Rhode Island. “I compared beer to everything else in this world, based on one simple rule: mass-appeal and quality rarely intersect.” That dedication quickly paid off — within just three months he was asked to bartend and curate the restaurant’s beer selection, building upon the program that was already in place. It only got more serious for Fishbone from there, as evidenced by cross country craft beer trades, home brewing with analytical equipment, brew school at the Siebel Institute of Technology, and gigs along the way at the likes of Flying Dog Brewery, DC Brau, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Harper’s Restaurant and Bar. After passing the master cicerone exam he landed a beverage curator and bar manager position at Treadwell Park, a recently opened beer hall on the Upper East Side. Here, Fishbone chats about his Cicerone certification, the beer he reaches for, and the cocktail category he’ll never abandon.
BoozeMenus: What should people know about the cicerone training - what all goes into it, and how does it compare to a sommelier role?
Mikey Fishbone: The Cicerone program has 4 levels now. Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone, which was just added late this year, and Master Cicerone. I took the Certified exam in March, 2013. The exam had a passing rate of about 30% back then. Currently I’m studying for the Master Exam, which I am sitting for in April 2016. I imagine it’s every bit as intense as the Master Sommelier exam, which a lot of people know, is nearly impossible to pass. The tasting is difficult. You have to identify off-flavors, determine if the beer is contaminated or not and cite the most likely source of the flaw.
BM: What's your go-to beer - the one that is always well stocked in your fridge?
MF: I don’t really have one. I have an appreciation for all beer styles; even the ones I find the most pointless, like Cascadian Dark Ales or Helles Bocks. Usually it’s something tart like a Berliner Weisse, Gose, or mixed fermentation saison.
BM: Can you tell us a bit about the beer floats - what inspired them, and which one is your favorite?
MF: I remember when a few bigger breweries were making ice cream from there beers, and I thought to myself, “why not just put the ice cream in the beer?” I always loved root beer floats as a kid, so this seemed natural. The combinations we have here at Treadwell were based on a basic pairing philosophy that calls for more contrast than resonance. Bleu cheese and IPAs go great together. So do vanilla and roasty stouts, or coconut and dark chocolate, as is featured in a float option with an oatmeal stout and coconut gelato. The hefeweizen and goat’s milk chocolate ice cream has the same flavor profile as a basic banana split.
BM: What exactly does a flux capacitor do, and how much do you rely on it during your shifts?
MF: The flux capacitor allows us to give each beer a separate, custom-tailored blend of CO2 and inert N2 gas to each keg of beer. Each beer has a different carbonation level, and in order to maintain that carbonation level, each beer requires a different amount of CO2 and N2 pressure.
BM: What did you consider most when creating your cocktail list?
MF: I wanted to focus mostly on lesser-known spirits and use them in barrel-aged boozy stirred cocktails. I like drinks that have a silky palate, supportive sweetness, and enough bitterness and aromatics to balance. I really like boozy stirred cocktails, and whether or not people know it, a lot of them do, too. Manhattans and Old fashioned are among the most called for cocktails out there. The drink “I, Monarch” is my favorite of the bunch. It’s a blend of Demerara rum, Jamaican pot-still rum and Cynar, sweetened a touch with charred sunchoke syrup, and lifted with bitters, lemon oil and a Laphroaig rinse. Another stirred drink we have is called the “Negroni Vermontois,” our most popular barrel-aged tipple, which is comprised of Barr Hill Gin, Nardini Amaro, Yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Antica Vermouth and chocolate and orange bitters.
BM: What's important to keep in mind when creating cocktails with beer? What works, and what doesn't?
MF: I’ve only created a handful of my own beer cocktails, but what I’ve found in doing so is that the beers are generally sweeter than dry sparkling wine, so they don’t need as much added sweetness from syrups to balance. Also, people try to make the beers in the cocktail the highlight, whereas I prefer to use beer to slightly lift drinks or add a touch of complexity, or just novelty.
BM: Which cocktail really speaks your name?
MF: The drink that I would enjoy most frequently on the list is probably “Today’s Global Business Climate.” It’s a simple Stargazer riff, with rye, Calvados, vermouth, amaro, Peychaud’s, and an absinthe rinse. It’s light-bodied, boozy, complex and more high-toned than the classic it’s based on.
BM: When's the last time a drinking or dining experience really impressed you?
MF: The last dinner that impressed me on nearly every level was Hearth in the East Village. We sat at the pass and were given an impromptu wine pairing, ending with a bottle of Cantillon Mamouche, which is as spectacular as it is rare. The delicate plating of each dish, the mix of textures, the bold flavors, and genuine service just made our night. If I could afford it, I’d go back more often.
BM: What’s one of the best food and drinking pairings at the restaurant?
MF: We’ll typically put on anywhere from two to eight new beers in an evening. Our food is centered on German classics and barbeque, so the hoppy stuff is great with the meats and the tart stuff goes well with the spicier foods.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Interior by Oleg March; Mikey Fishbone by SD Conrad; Beer Floats by Oleg March)