The wine world has sommeliers. The tea world has tea sommeliers. What about the beer world? Are there beer sommeliers?
You bet. And they even have a special name: cicerones. (Say: SIS-uh-rohn)
The word cicerone originally meant a guide or someone who conducts visitors (so hey, we’re all cicerones here at Black Creek Pioneer Village!). Today, it usually refers to a Certified Cicerone: someone who has proven their knowledge of beer styles, flavours, and service under the Cicerone Certification Program. This is a certification body created by Beer Expert Extraordinare Ray Daniels.
There are four levels of tests: for Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, Advanced Cicerone™, and Master Cicerone®. And it’s tough stuff: of the 75,000 people who have undertaken the Cicerone Certification Program, only eleven have achieved the title of Master Cicerone.
Naturally, my knee-jerk response is, “Then I shall be the twelfth,” but we’ll see.
What do cicerones need to know? Short answer: everything. Longer answer: brewing techniques, beer and brewing history, beer ingredients, beer service, glassware, draught systems, beer tastings, and food pairings. Essentially, cicerones are experts in every aspect of the beer experience: from the technical, to the historic, to the artistic.
So, you wanna be a cicerone? The first level—Certified Beer Server—is an online test that takes about thirty minutes. Anything past that has to be done in person at one of the Cicerone Certification Program’s testing locations. And to be a Master Cicerone? You’re looking at two days of examination, including eight hours of written tests, two hours of oral examination, and two hours of beer tasting and evaluation.
To get us all started, I found this short sample quiz, courtesy of the Cicerone Certification Program. How well did you do?
Want to improve your score, or practice for those advanced titles? Drop by the Black Creek brewery this summer. We can all share our beer knowledge together, and add a few more samples to your beer tasting repertoire!