Cicerone® Certificate Program
There are a variety of ways to learn if you’re interested in educating yourself more about beer. You can learn by chatting with beertenders at your local bottle shop, by reading some of the many great books about beer & brewing, or by homebrewing with a friend. If you’re thinking about working in the industry, a professional certification can set you apart from other candidates vying for a job. There are two such industry-recognized routes to choose from: the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) or the Cicerone Certification Program. Both provide education & experience with knowledge & identification of recognized beer styles, brewing, & off-flavors. So, which do you choose? The BJCP judging certification is designed to produce competent & experienced judges that grade, rank, & provide useful feedback to brewers entering their beers in homebrewing competitions. To progress to higher rankings in the program, one must commit to participating in judging events on a regular basis. If that’s your area of interest, BJCP is the way to go. If, however, you’re interested in working in sales or service of craft beer, the Cicerone Certification Program may be a better choice. The program was developed by longtime brewer, author, & beer expert Ray Daniels, who foresaw the need for educated professionals in the beer industry, akin to Sommeliers in wine. Candidates for a Cicerone certificate must demonstrate knowledge in five areas: keeping and serving beer (including understanding draught systems & proper glassware), beer styles, beer flavor & evaluation, beer ingredients & brewing processes, & pairing beer with food. The program has four levels of certification, from basic (Certified Beer Server®) to the most rigorous (Master Cicerone®). Passing the Certified Beer Server exam requires a score of 75% or above on a 60-question exam that is taken online. More than 80,000 have earned this level of certification. To call oneself a Certified Cicerone®, however, requires achieving the second level of certification. To pass, candidates must register for & attend an exam which is proctored by a member of the Cicerone Certification Program team. The exam consists of a three-hour written portion containing both short-answer and essay questions, and an hour-long tasting portion where candidates must correctly identify beer styles & off-flavors. Passing requires a minimum score of 80% overall & at least 70% on the tasting portion. It is a rigorous exam with a high fail-rate (so far there are only around 2,500 Certified Cicerones), but a person with this certification enjoys a level of distinction & respect within the industry that can significantly improve chances for career success.
Websites & Resources
The Cicerone website (Link) contains requirements & an in-depth syllabus for each level, plus free study resources & sample exam questions. It’s also where you can access or register for certification exams & optional paid education programs.
Tasting Beer, Randy Mosher: this is the quintessential starting place for anyone looking to pursue a Cicerone Certification, & belongs on every beer-lover’s bookshelf. How to Brew, John Palmer: an easy-to-understand but in-depth guide to the art of brewing.
The BJCP Styles Guide (Link): the standard for recognized beer styles and their characteristics.
Draught Beer Quality Manual, The American Brewers Association (Link): the source for learning about draught system design, maintenance, industry best-practices, & beer-clean glassware.
The Oxford Companion to Beer, ed. Garrett Oliver: a heavy-duty compendium containing entries for anything related to beer from A to Z.
The Brewmaster’s Table, Garrett Oliver: a guide to successfully pairing beer & food.