Becoming a Beer Sommelier – Choosing a Cicerone Beer Program
The world of wine includes experts that are expected to guide drinkers in their purchases, help them pair food and wine, and more. They’re called sommeliers. The world of beer has something similar, although it’s a more recent innovation. A beer sommelier, now becoming known as a cicerone, teaches those passionate about the world of brewing how to guide drinkers in choosing the right brew for their needs, but it goes much deeper than that.
The Original Cicerone Program
The original cicerone program was developed by Ray Daniels, and is actually a trademarked course (one of the most difficult in the beer world). The Cicerone™ Certification program is a three-tiered course that beings with a beer server exam. This can be taken online, and requires about 30 minutes to complete. The entire course covers five different components, ranging from serving to beer styles, flavors, brewing processes and beer ingredients, and food pairings.
The second tier is the Certified Cicerone™ program, and you must take this test in person at an authorized testing location. It takes about three hours to complete, and it includes essay questions, short answer questions and more (it’s a fully written exam). There’s also a physical component in a mandatory tasting and demonstration.
The final tier is the Master Cicerone™ program, which builds on what was learned in the previous course. It’s a two-day examination, with multiple components. The first is an eight-hour written test, followed by a two-hour oral exam, and then another two-hour component dedicated to tasting.
Not Your Only Option
If you want to become a beer sommelier, the Cicerone™ beer program isn’t your only option (although it is the only one that calls graduates cicerones, rather than beer sommeliers). Your options include Prud’homme’s Beer Certification program, and the Beer Steward Certificate Program. Currently, several US colleges are developing (or have already rolled out) beer-specific programs. Many of these are brewing specific, but given time, you’ll find a much wider range of courses offered (eventually, it will be on par with wine education and training).
Why Become a Beer Sommelier?
Why would anyone want to become a beer sommelier? There are plenty of reasons. First, there’s a significant demand for professionals with this type of training (including all three tiers in the Cicerone™ Certification program). They’re in demand by brewpubs and gastropubs – locations that need educated, informed staff members to help guests locate the right beer for their evening. Sommeliers can also help provide education for beer lovers, helping them appreciate the differences between the various styles out there, how they’re brewed, various ingredients and a great deal more.
Of course, there’s also the fun element – learning how to appreciate beer more can certainly be enjoyable. If you’re considering a career in this area, there’s a lot to be said for completing Ray Daniels’ course, but don’t feel limited to that one alone. With that being said, it is one of the most prestigious in the country due to its rigorous nature, so graduates with these credentials will likely receive more consideration.
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