Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oh To Be a Cicerone!

You may have heard the term Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) thrown about lately. But what is it, and more importantly - how the hell can I become one?!

Check this out, taken from the latest Left Hand Brewing (makers of some delish beer, including my fave - Milk Stout) Newsletter:

Anyone can call themselves an expert on beer. But when you, our friends, want great beer, sometimes you'll need help from a server who really knows beer flavors, styles and brands. You'll also want to buy from a place that understands proper storage and serving so the beer they drink will be of the highest quality. Too often great beer is harmed by improper service practices.

That being the case, Ray Daniels, a veteran of the US Beer Industry and current President of the Craft Beer Institute, as well as a friend of ours, has developed a program to ensure that consumers receive the best possible beer and enjoy its flavors to the greatest extent possible. It's called the Cicerone Certification Program. To facilitate this, those who sell and serve beer need to acquire knowledge in five areas:

  • Beer Storage, Sales and Service
  • Beer Styles and Culture
  • Beer Tasting and Flavors
  • Brewing Ingredients and Processes
  • Pairing Beer with Food

To encourage participation by those with various interests and ambitions, the program offers three levels of certification beginning with the simplest and building to the most complex and demanding:

  1. Certified Beer Server
  2. Certified Cicerone
  3. Master Cicerone

What is a Cicerone?

The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today's wide range of beers. The titles "Certified Cicerone" and "Master Cicerone" are protected certification trademarks. Only those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill can call themselves a Cicerone.

What is the origin of the word "Cicerone"?

Cicerone is an English word referring to "one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums and explains matters of archaeological, antiquarian, historic or artistic interest." For beer, a Cicerone will possess the knowledge and skills to guide those interested in beer culture, including its historic and artistic aspects. "Cicerone" now designates a person with demonstrated expertise in beer who can guide consumers to enjoyable and high-quality experiences with great beer.

What is a sommelier?

The word "sommelier" designates an expert wine steward. Twenty or thirty years ago when beer was much simpler, those whose primary expertise was wine could fairly claim to know a great deal about beer. But today the world of beer is just as diverse and complicated as wine. As a result, developing true expertise in beer takes years of focused study and requires constant attention to stay on top of new brands and special beers. While it is certainly possible for someone to be expert in both wine and beer, the only way to prove that is by examination and certification in both fields. Only those with the title "Certified Cicerone" or "Master Cicerone" have demonstrated their expertise in selecting and serving fine beer.

How is a Cicerone different from a Beer Sommelier?

A Cicerone is a tested and proven expert in beer while beer sommelier is a self-designation that can be adopted by anyone. Because there are no criteria for the title of beer sommelier and because those who use the title have not subjected their knowledge and skills to an independent examination, consumers and employers can't be sure just what a non-certified beer server knows or how they treat and serve the beer.

For more info, check out www.cicerone.org. We raise our glasses to Ray and the Cicerone Certification Program!