Most people, even people who don’t like wine, know what a sommelier is. Fewer people, even people who do like beer, know what a Cicerone is.
And that may have to do with the fact that, in the pantheon of beer professionals, the name ”Cicerone” is a little bit intimidating sounding (as opposed to say, brewer or “suds expert”). But a Cicerone is essentially no different in the world of beer than a sommelier would be in the world of wine; in fact, it’s easy to remember if you just think Cicerone=crazy smart beer lover.
Really, at the most basic, and most important, level, a Cicerone is just someone who knows a lot, a whole lot, about beer, and by passing two levels of exams administered by the Cicerone Certification Program, has achieved the all-important title as a result.
Cicerone certification hasn’t existed for as long as sommelier certifications (“Master Sommelier,” “Master of Wine,” etc.). The Cicerone program was created by former bio-chem major turned beer lover/professional Ray Daniels in 2007, part of an effort to bring as much expert guidance as possible to the craft beer revolution. The more good, complex beer there was on hand, the more need there was (and continues to be) for passionate, well-educated professionals to guide a maybe uninitiated public through the ever-growing selection.
Cicerone isn’t the only title offered by the CCP. It offers three levels of certification: Certified Beer Server (there are more of these than any level), Certified Cicerones (well over 1000 and climbing), and Master Cicerones (to show the difficulty level of these exams, only one to two people pass this level each year). The Cicerone exam evaluates five different aspects of professional beer knowledge and service: serving beer, beer styles, beer flavor and evaluation, brewing process and ingredients, and beer and food pairing. No surprise, the test lasts a whopping four hours and isn’t easy to pass the first time around.
However, once you do pass the Cicerone test, you’re part of a select group of people entrusted with the task of guiding the public all through the expansive selection of craft beers on the market, whether at a bar (presumably a great beer bar) or restaurant, where you’re often tasked with finding the right beer for the increasingly important field of beer and food pairings.
The growth in popularity of the Cicerone program is just one example, but a relatively strong example, of the continued growth of the world of beer. The more people that are interested.