The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

April 1, 2015

Top Fermentation - March 2015


The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly

Beware the Ides of March. Back in 44 BC Julius Caesar ignored this warning from a soothsayer at his peril and ventured out on March 15th to a location near the Theatre of Pompey, where he was attacked by a group of disgruntled senators. One of his assailants was his erstwhile buddy Marcus Junius Brutus, who inflicted the final wound, prompting Caesar’s dying words, “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar.” (Alert readers [ARs] who studied Latin in high school will undoubtedly recall that Caesar always wrote of himself in the third person.) More than two millennia after his death the name of Caesar still endures in the Russian and German names for emperor (Czar and Kaiser), as well as in towns called Caesarea in such disparate locations as present-day Algeria, Israel, Syria and Turkey, not to mention Jersey in the Channel Islands (for which New Jersey is named.)

While most ARs are probably more familiar with William Shakespeare’s account of Caesar’s assassination than with anything written by a true historian, there’s no denying that the event itself actually took place. That is not the case, however, with the assassination of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, which was depicted in The Interview, an artistic oeuvre that has not yet received the critical acclaim of the bard’s Julius Caesar. Even though this assassination was totally fictitious, the Supreme Leader and his minions were so irked that they supposedly wreaked cyber havoc on Sony Pictures in retaliation for having exercised its First Amendment rights so irresponsibly.

In addition to the fact that Caesar was actually assassinated and Kim wasn’t, there’s another important difference between the two dictators. As was noted above, Caesar was very happy to have his name spread throughout his empire. Kim, on the other hand, has outlawed the use of his name. I am not making this up. Not only is it illegal for North Korean parents named Kim, of whom there are millions, to give their children the same name as Kim Jong-un. As of January 5, 2011, anyone who already had the name (as countless men and women did) was forced to give it up.

While the fictitious assassination of Kim Jong-un did not lead to regime change in North Korea, the real assassination of Julius Caesar did result in extended political instability in Rome. One of the politicians who sympathized with the conspirators was Marcus Tullius Cicero, commonly known as Cicero. ARs who survived first year Latin and Caesar’s accounts of his military exploits may have encountered the writings of Cicero a few years later. For those who have not had the pleasure of attempting to read Cicero in the original Latin, suffice it to say that one of his sentences could easily be as long as this entire column. Less than two years after the death of Caesar, Cicero met a similar fate on December 7, 43 BC. Acknowledging that the consensus among historians is that Cicero’s political differences with Mark Anthony led to his demise, as a struggling student I concluded over 50 years ago that his prolix prose was sufficient justification for homicide.

ciceropublicdomainbw1Killed for Politics or Prolixity?

Eighteen centuries after Cicero’s death the word “cicerone” entered the English language meaning “guide.” Some have speculated that it referred to the notorious loquacity of some tour guides. I can’t vouch for this scholarship, but I can’t disagree either. More recently it has come to mean someone who is knowledgeable about beer. There are three levels recognized by the Cicerone Certification Program: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone. As of May, 2014, there were 1,173 Certified Cicerones in the United States. Among the 50 states Missouri ranked seventh, with 47. Two of our employees at Schlafly, Gary Briggs and Scott Shreffler, have completed the requirements to be Certified Cicerones and are in the process of studying to become Master Cicerones, a status achieved by only nine individuals as of October, 2014.

The standards for becoming a Certified or Master Cicerone are extremely rigorous. Moreover, as far as I can tell, the certification process has not been tainted by the sorts of scandals that have occurred at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States. Consider the University of North Carolina, where thousands of students over a period of 18 years got credit for taking non-existent classes. According to the official, 131 page report, at least 3,100 students were involved. Four employees of UNC were fired and five more were disciplined.

At Harvard University approximately half of the 279 students in a Government class “Introduction to Congress” were disciplined for cheating. Of these approximately 70 were forced to withdraw from the university. As was the case at UNC, varsity athletes figured prominently among the cheaters. Included among the student athletes who had to withdraw were the captain of the basketball team, as well as members of the hockey, baseball and football teams.

At Dartmouth University the latest scandal involved a class titled “Sports, Ethics and Religion.” That’s right. Sixty-four students were disciplined for cheating in an Ethics class. A few weeks later Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon made an announcement that may or may not have been related to the cheating scandal. The university trustees had implemented a campus-wide ban on hard liquor. I am not making this up. This didn’t happen at Liberty University or Bob Jones University, neither of which has an academic reputation approaching that of Dartmouth, and both of which prohibit alcohol as well as dancing. No. This happened at Dartmouth, whose reputation for academic excellence has coexisted with an active party scene since before the American Revolution.

The ban has not been extended to beer and wine. Yet. Nevertheless, I can easily imagine alumni whose fluency in Latin exceeds mine lamenting, “Et tu, Dartmouth?”