There are beer nerds. There are beer snobs. And then there are cicerones, who are essentially walking encyclopedias of beer knowledge and the beer world’s answer to sommeliers.
But what does it take to become one? We talked with Zach Mack, owner of New York’s Alphabet City Beer Co. (and our trusty beer expert) about the rigorous process it takes to become one of the world’s most respected beer nerds. Turns out, it’s kind of like passing the bar. But with a lot more beer burps.
So you’re a Certified Cicerone. Can you explain exactly what that is?
The fancy way of putting it is that it’s an exam-based certification that proves a person knows about proper beer service, storage, style, history, and food pairings. Ever heard of wine experts called “sommeliers?” We’re like that, but for beer.
And it’s pronounced “chee-cha-roh-nee”?
Close! The proper pronunciation has been lost in the mists of time, but the one commonly used is “sis-uh-rohn.”
OK, so how do you become one?
There are a few stages. The first step is becoming a Certified Beer Server by taking an exam online, which is an entry-level certification that teaches you about proper beer service and basic style history. A lot of beer bars and restaurants use it as a way to train staff, but even if you’re not in the industry, it’s a pretty easy way to brush up on basics if you’re looking to learn more about beer.
Once you’ve passed that, you can sign up for a cicerone exam in your area. It’s pretty easy if to find one if you’re in the United States (and getting easier in Canada and the UK). Then it gets down to studying your ass off.