If you enjoy a nice glass of pinot occasionally, you may have heard of a sommelier or wine steward. Sommeliers are professionals who work in the hospitality industry, and are specially trained and knowledgeable about all things vino (that’s wine in Spanish). A cicerone by comparison is someone of similar standing who is knowledgeable about beer, sometimes called a beer sommelier.
Sipping cervezas (that’s beers in Spanish) for a living sounds like a pretty cool gig, doesn’t it? Beer Sisters co-founder and Advanced Cicerone, Crystal Luxmore gives us some insight into this growing field of work.
Becoming a Certified Cicerone
The profession is relatively new in North America but quickly gaining ground. There are a number of institutions offering the certification process. To become certified, one needs to have a full understanding of the different styles of beer, brewing processes and techniques, ingredient options, the history of beer and brewing, the uses of the different types of glassware, proper beer service and draught systems, and, most importantly, food pairings – what beer goes best with particular foods.
- Certified Beer Server – The first level of training is for those who work with beer and focuses on the fundamentals of serving great beer: cleaning glassware, a proper pour, as well as storage and handling.
- Certified Cicerone – For those who want to pursue a career in beer, from bartenders to professional brewers, this level cultivates individuals with a well rounded knowledge of beer and the basic competence to assess beer quality and the ability to identify beer by taste.
- Advanced Cicerone – A designation of distinctive expertise and tasting skill, these individuals are experts in brewing, beer and beer service.
- Master Cicerone – This is the ultimate in beer expertise. Candidates for Master Cicerone certification must demonstrate an encyclopedic knowledge and an in-depth understanding of all aspects of brewing, beer, food pairings and beer service. A well trained Master Cicerone can identify a beer’s style, flavour components, brewing process and quality in a blind tasting.
Each level in the program builds on the previous, and the testing process becomes more intensive as you progress. Candidates for Master Cicerone complete a two-day exam of blind tastings, flavour identification, technical expertise of brewing systems, and food and beer pairings.
What does a cicerone do?
Certified cicerones often work in fine restaurants and are in charge of choosing and purchasing beer, ensuring it is properly stored and served, interacting with customers and educating staff. In the brewing industry, cicerones may give tours and tastings as well as work as sales representatives or be involved in developing new flavour profiles for their brands.
In a retail setting, a cicerone’s responsibilities may include purchasing and selecting beers for resale. Self-employed beer sommeliers may consult with pubs and restaurants, provide staff training, host tasting events and judge competitions at festivals. They may also write beer reviews for print publications.
So if you have an interest in expanding your beer knowledge, monetizing your refined palette or just sharing your love of beer, this might be the profession for you.
Cheers to that!
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