In the beer world, a cicerone is similar to a wine sommelier. The official national Cicerone program is a three-level process of education and testing that can lead to the title of Master Cicerone, a level of achievement that fewer than 10 Americans have ever reached. Level one is called "Certified Beer Server," and anyone can study the educational material and take the test online for $69. According to the organizations' website, a Certified Beer Server will acquire "competent knowledge of beer storage and service issues as well as modest knowledge of beer styles and culture and basic familiarity with beer tasting and flavors and basic knowledge about brewing process and ingredients."
Checking out the Nashville roster of Certified Beer Servers shows that 70 folks have already completed this course of study, so while you can't be the first, you can certainly be the next to achieve CBS status. You can check out the syllabus for the course at the Cicerone website.
If you want to join the less than 1,000 beer enthusiasts and industry workers who have reached Certified Cicerone recognition, you'll have to go farther than just an online course and examination. Certified Cicerones must demonstrate "detailed knowledge of retail beer storage and service issues, excellent knowledge of modern beers and styles with some familiarity with beer history and historical styles, competence in identifying flawed beers and recognizing appropriate and inappropriate flavors in modern beer styles, good understanding of the beer ingredients and familiarity with the brewing process and its common variations plus knowledge of beer pairing principles and the ability to recommend reasonable beer pairings for common foods."
This requires a lot more study, and the exam must be taken as part of one of many scheduled test sessions spread across the calendar and across the country. Depending on whether you pass your first exam or have to take retests, achieving Certified Cicerone status can cost half a grand, so this is not a casual undertaking. If it does sound like something that's up your alley, you might want to start cramming, because the next Nashville exam is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at DET Distributing Company.
Don't worry if you can't get it together for fall semester. The study is self-paced, and there will be other opportunities to take the test either here in town or in nearby cities over the next years. Even if you don't plan to work in the industry, the study involved in the Certified Beer Server exam looks like it would be fun and could really add some depth to your beverage knowledge.
So what do you think, Bitesters? Are any of you Cicerones? Does this sound like a good way to learn more about your favorite malty product, or would you rather increase your knowledge base from across the bar? Cheers!