The beverage industry goes beyond just wines and spirits. Beer is one sector of it that contiues to rise. And with that growth also comes more career opportunities to explore. We tapped Jeremy Storton, a Certified Cicerone®, to share his knowledge about how to get started on your path to becoming a Cicerone.
Based on your own path, what job experience do you recommend having before getting certified as a cicerone?
Before becoming a Certified Beer Server I was a home brewer and understood the brewing process pretty well. That was invaluable. Along the way to Certified Cicerone®, I got a certificate in brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD). I also sat through a class and studied every Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style in depth to become a BJCP judge. These set me up for the 2nd level of Cicerone and beyond; I don’t know that I would’ve passed without them.
As a cicerone, what key lessons did you learn along the way when getting certified?
Aside from the practical beer knowledge, such as styles or draft systems, I’ve learned that beer is better when placed into context. This context may include looking at beer from the historical, social, psychological, religious, political, economic or cultural perspectives, let alone the experience of a truly good beer and food pairing. I think the part that we as consumers need to remember is that a beer can be so much more than just a beer if we allow it to be.
How does one go about getting certified? What knowledge is needed and what tests are required?
The Cicerone organization tests candidates based upon five different areas of beer knowledge:
- Ingredients and brewing process
- Keeping and serving
- Flavor evaluation
- Beer styles
- Pairing with food
Each of the four levels of certification dive exponentially deeper into each area in the depth of knowledge required to pass. Anyone interested in looking to see what they require can download a syllabus for free at cicerone.org and review the study resources they recommend. Cicerone even offers classes occasionally (Covid notwithstanding) for those who prefer a classroom structure.
Are there different levels of Cicerone certification?
Cicerone is similar to a wine Sommelier insofar as there are four levels.
- The first is the Certified Beer Server® and that is perfect for bartenders and servers who should know more about beer than their average customers.
- A Certified Cicerone® is the second level and is meant for people who want to work in the beer industry with a good deal of mastery over beer as a whole.
- The third level is the Advanced Cicerone® and this is a high level for people who plan to educate others and oversee staff in the beer industry.
- Like Sommeliers, Cicerone culminates in the Master designation for people who know way too much about beer. I think of them as the professors at the University of Beerology.
What is your advice for anyone that is interested in becoming a Cicerone?
My first advice is don’t hesitate, do it now. Besides becoming more confident and valuable in terms of a career in beer, I can’t tell you how many great people I’ve met, how many doors have opened and how many opportunities have fallen into my lap because of becoming a Cicerone.
What resources (e.g., books, websites, trainings/courses, etc.) do you recommend?
In my opinion, the starting point for anyone who works with beer and is interested in pursuing next steps, is to read “Tasting Beer” by Randy Mosher. This book provides the breadth and depth of the entire world of beer. It’s also a fun and easy read complete with images and diagrams making everything detailed, but approachable.
Pro-tip: You have to read it with a pen and a highlighter if you’re serious. I even have tabs sticking out of the pages to steer me to the section I’m looking for. I’ve also downloaded it on kindle and as an audio book so that I can revisit it anytime, anywhere.
Secondly, learn to brew, become a BJCP judge and start paying attention to aromas, flavors and textures in everything you consume.
I also really like the video series by Master Cicerone® Rich Higgins for people pursuing Certified Cicerone®. He also has other invaluable education resources at his site, www.richhiggins.com.
Lastly, there are far too many books and resources to recommend here, but go to Cicerone.org to get your syllabus, suggested books and more. And, don’t forget to listen to the Good Beer Matters podcast!
About Jeremy Storton
Jeremy Storton is a Certified Cicerone®, IBD certified Brewer, BJCP judge, home brewer, beer writer and hosts the Good Beer Matters podcast. When not contemplating good beer and food, you’ll find him in the water, listening to a good tune or hanging with his wife and kids.