The Basics of the Cicerone Program


If you want to get involved in the craft beer industry, you need to understand craft beer. In-depth beer knowledge is a key component of the skill set you’ll need to work alongside some of the world’s top craft breweries. The Cicerone program is a great way to build your beer knowledge. Read on for an introduction to the Cicerone program and to see why it’ll be useful to your career in craft beer.

The Cicerone Certification program, founded in 2007 by craft beer veteran Ray Daniels, is a testing and quality control board for craft beer experts. Lots of people call themselves beer experts—sit at a craft beer bar for an evening and you’ll run into at least five—but Cicerone certification means you really are an expert. 

The basic goals of the Cicerone program are to help beer professionals and enthusiasts learn about beer styles, the proper handling and serving of beer, and the complex history of beer and brewing the world over.

In total, there are four Cicerone levels: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, Advanced Cicerone®, and Master Cicerone®. Advanced Cicerone® is the newest level, introduced in 2015 to help recognize those who have achieved mastery of beer knowledge but have not yet reached the level of Master (which is a considerable feat—there are only 11 Masters in the world).

Each level has its own test, with increasing difficulty and test length. The Certified Beer Server test, which takes only 30 minutes and can be completed online, covers the basics: keeping and serving beer, different beer styles, ingredients in beer, distinct flavors, and desirable food pairings. Passing the second level and earning the title “Certified Cicerone®” requires an in-person test, available at a wide variety of locations around the States (and increasingly in the UK and Canada). This test examines many of the same subjects but delves deeper: for example, you must be able to identify off-flavors in beers and explain how they occurred. Level 3, Advanced Cicerone®, is the next step, and it is significantly harder. This exam is longer and much more difficult—the syllabus alone is 23 pages long! Finally, the Master Cicerone® is nearly impossible for even the most knowledgeable of beer drinkers. This two-day, in-person test consists of eight hours of written exams, two hours of oral exams, and two hours of beer tasting and evaluation.

Want to really be a beer expert? Consider the Cicerone program!