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How to become a Certified Cicerone

Posted June 10, 2013 | 10:30 am, by Mirella

Two to three times a month, I’m contacted by someone who is looking for advice on how to become a Certified Cicerone®. Having fielded this question a number of times, I thought I’d take a moment to collect my thoughts in a blog post…

In the spirit of full disclosure: as of May, I am working as an independent contractor for the Cicerone® Certification Program. Having said this, as I outlined above, that’s not what has motivated this post.

So, how to work towards becoming a Certified Cicerone®. First things first:

It is important to note that the Cicerone® program is not a series of courses, it is a certification body. This often causes confusion; many people ask me where they can take the ‘Cicerone course’ or where I took mine. That’s not what the program is about.

Taking an exam with the program is a way to get an independent assessment of your level of knowledge by a respected and recognized organization. 

My Cicerone Study Tools

My Cicerone Study Tools

This is what first drew me to the program. As a beer specialist, I wanted people to know that they could trust my level of expertise. By the time I wrote the Certified Cicerone® exam, I had been working as a beer specialist for a few years. During that time I’d taken a number of classes and learned a lot through experience, sharing, drinking tons of beer and reading tons of books. I therefore only had to study for a few weeks to prepare for the exam. Having said this, I understand that a number of people are relatively new to beer and would like to work their way to becoming certified.

For those who are starting from scratch, the first step is to acquire the knowledge necessary to pass the Certified Beer Server exam, which is an online exam. There are a number of resources available on the Cicerone.org website and they also recently launched an online training course. Personally, I would recommend supplementing this learning with practical experience by downloading the BJCP style guidelines and then tasting as many beer styles as possible while consulting the corresponding style descriptions. By the time I wrote my Certified Beer Server exam, I was very familiar with the BJCP guidelines and I found that I just breezed through the online exam.

From there, there are many routes to the Certified Cicerone® exam, but taking a course that will teach you everything you know to pass is not one of them. This is a professional accreditation and it wouldn’t be as valuable if it was about regurgitating freshly-acquired information.

I thought I’d take a moment to share a timeframe that the program director, Ray Daniels, has mentioned he feels is a reasonable one to get from the Certified Beer Server level to the Certified Cicerone® level: 2 years.

That seems right to me. As I mentioned earlier, when I wrote the exam I’d been working as a beer specialist for three years and I was comfortable writing the exam. Don’t get me wrong: it was a very challenging exam, and I still needed to study and prepare, but it wasn’t a daunting task – and it shouldn’t be.

Here is my advice for those who would like to work towards the Certified Cicerone® Exam:

  • Download the syllabus & use it to assess which areas you need to work on and/or guide your study NOTE: there is a separate syllabus for those in the USA
  • Download the BJCP style guidelines (as per my suggestion above)
  • Download the BA Draught Quality Manual & familiarize yourself with its content
  • Spend some time in a job that involves dispensing draught beer
  • Spend some time working with various kinds of beer or volunteer at beer events
  • Brew a batch or two of beer or find a home brewer who will let you sit in on a brew day
  • Practice tasting beer & breaking down its flavours – preferably in a group so you can share impressions
  • Find a way to acquire experience tasting off-flavours (that’s why I created my off-flavours class)
  • Experiment with pairing beer with food – read the theory and then try different combinationsBeerology Beer Book s
  • Update: The ‘Pairing Beer With Food’ chapter of my new book outlines food pairing theory step by step and is a great resource for those who’d like more in-depth information on this aspect.
  • The BetterBeer.com Serve Better Beer online course is also a great resource, if you’d like to learn more about draught systems and the proper service of draught beer.

Everyone’s learning style is different, some people prefer self-study, others like to take courses. The important thing is not to acquire all of your information in the same place. I think you will find, as I have, that when it comes to beer the more you learn the less you know…

I hope this is helpful information. Good Luck!

4 comments

  1. Nice post, its true, at least for me, the exam involves so much, it can be hard to pinpoint where to start. Liked your last statement “…when it comes to beer the more you learn the less you know”, I’ve experienced this more than once. Cheers!

    Comment by Jake Bersani on June 10, 2013 at 10:50 pm

  2. Short, yet informative and helpful. Thank you

    Comment by J. Flores on June 27, 2013 at 2:22 am

  3. Great info for someone just entering the beer industry!

    Comment by Anthony on July 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

Trackbacks

  1. Details on the Certified Cicerone® Exam at Halifax Club, Jan. 23, 2014 | Atlantic Canada Beer Blog

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