Minus the profit. A quick trip to the Google Machine will show you that if you want to become a cicerone it isn’t exactly the path the wealth and prestige. It’s more of a “nice to have” if you already work in an industry that has heavy ties to craft beer, like restaurants, bars, or even breweries themselves. Like most certifications on job descriptions, they’re more preferred and not strictly required.
In case I’m speaking Greek, Cicerones, as defined by Cicerones, are
professionals with proven experience in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers
So basically what your annoying ale hole buddy thinks he is, but with a piece of paper to back it up. It’s like a group of beer snobs got together and somehow convinced other, lesser beer snobs to pay them money to learn to be more pretentious. My god….it’s brilliant!
All joking aside, I firmly believe in diving deep into a passion and educating yourself as much as possible. If you’re truly interested, there are four separate levels of mastery you can attain. Each increasing significantly in difficulty and cost. Believe it or not, you might actually have to study. There is a recommended reading list with a few core books, as well as live classes and study aids you can purchase. One of which include an off flavor kit. So now when someone claims a beer tastes like a used band-aid, you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about.
The first level of ciceronedom is called Certified Beer Server and is certainly your entry level course into the world of beer. It basically put you at the level any competent bartender should already be at. It’s the level you think you’re at, but you really aren’t. Once you complete the curriculum you should at the very least have a basic knowledge of most beer styles and be familiar with tasting and flavors, as well as brewing techniques and ingredients.
Sounding a bit like work? It can be. Who would have thought you’d need to read books to be better at beer drinking? Turns out mom was right after all. After Certified Beer Server there are three higher level certification you can achieve. There are thousands of Certified Beer servers, with a very steep drop off for each subsequent level. The highest level, Master Cicerone, has only 11 masters! I can only hope that achieving each rank gets you one step closer to the true wisdom of Solomon, preferably with some sort of ritual involving shaved genitals.
Is all the time and effort worth it? Only you can say. The Cicerone program has only been around since 2007. There are incredibly knowledgeable beer drinkers and leaders in the industry who have never even considered bothering to take the test for even the first level. Becoming a Cicerone doesn’t grant you access to some cross between Animal House/Eyes Wide Shut style parties. At least not until you achieve Master Cicerone. Your flesh light will have to do until then I guess.
The key to becoming better at anything is of course practice. Turns out even beer drinking can benefit from a little structure and some flash cards. Just like college, all of your studying will involve beer…and crying…and even more crippling debt. So if you need an excuse the next time you show up to work hungover, just tell them you were studying for the big exam you have coming up.