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Friday Follies: Become a Professional Beer Expert (And You Thought All You Had to Do Was Drink)

This entry is part of a series, Follies 2011»

Beer Server

Some of you astute readers may have figured out by now that I like beer. I don’t drink a lot of the sudsy, but I do watch a lot of trends in the beer arena. Oh, and I occasionally sample a good brew. Something local and craft, by choice. Or from the taps at a brew pub; that’s nice too.

Cute ServerWell, with the explosion of the craft beer and brew pub industry comes new job opportunities. Like Cicerone.

What’s a cicerone? I’m glad you asked. I had no clue either, until this article appeared. Really, cicerone (which means guide in Italian) is fancy-talk for a beer sommelier…

Okay, that clears things right up, yes? Many of you, especially the avid beer drinker, have never seen a sommelier. (Shoot, some of us need three tries just to spell it.) So what is THAT? A trained and knowledgeable professional, of wines. Also known as a wine steward, they work in fine restaurants and the like. (I bet the wine snobs traditionalists really hate the beer industry for hijacking their term.)

Cicerone is a new thing. Not that there haven’t been knowledgeable beer pros; just no real training and certification system existed before. Not until recently. However, there are now over 3,000 certified cicerones, if you include all levels. This past year saw an explosion in interest, with over 2,000 folks passing the exam to become Certified Beer Servers (the entry level). Above that there are 180 Certified Cicerones, and three (count’em, 3!) Master Cicerones. Apparently the numbers more than doubled in 2010.

Tell me, though; how can an industry survive with only three levels of Elves pros? I’m sure you agree with me, it takes a lot more than that. Especially where beer is involved. After all, beer invented civilization, and has saved the world several times. (See previous Follies articles for the proof.) So we here at the Chile Underground got out a couple cases of brewed lubricant and some snacks put on our thinking caps and came up with some new ideas for levels of certified beer professional. Remember, you heard them here first!


Beer Buckwheater: A true tyro, somebody who has consumed at least one keg of beer in their young lifetime and, for some odd reason, likes the stuff. They want to dedicate their life to the magical brew; what better way than to walk the path to Master Cicerone?

Pilsner Putterer: An avid hobbyist with a taste for the lighter side of brewing, these folks are thinking about maybe starting a career in the field. They have their toe in the water, but haven’t quite committed to taking the plunge. Still, they know how to work a churchkey, and they have helped at least three local bars close up.

Authorized Ale Quaffer: This hearty lad (or lady; no discrimination here!) likes the dark side. And, push comes to shove, will also imbibe a pale ale or six. They can rail on and on about how the different yeasts work, how coke (not Coke) is used in various ale processes, and more. They’ve also intervened in at least three wall-to-wall discussions between bar patrons concerning which is better: Guinness or Murphy’s.

Beer at the Pool

Certified Beer Swiller: This “pro” needs no introduction. You’ve all met at least one while out and about, minding your own business and relaxing in the pub. They have plenty of opinions about beer, and pretty much everything else, and they’re not afraid to share. They can be a bit “challenging,” but are often useful; like when they strategically pass out, freeing up the bar stool you’ve been coveting. Pay attention to them, from an appropriate distance. The barkeep will tell you if they’re certified, if you ask.

Master Head Sucker (Crossover from Cajun Crawfish Industry): This sharpie passionately covers two areas of skill. They originally learned to suck from their first love, crawdad boils. Then they “moved up” to beer. They never forgot how they suck, though. You can learn a lot from one of these Masters, provided you supply the brewskis (and the crustaceans), and clean up afterwards.

We came up with many more hilarious and absurd ideas cogent, pithy stages that could be used to flesh out the ladder to the top of the cicerone ladder. However, by the time we got that far we’d pretty much incapacitated ourselves run out of chalkboard for recording our ideas. The above list should do for starters…

Enjoy the (Inebriated Insight) Heat!

Entries in this series:
  1. Friday Follies: Weirdest Snacks, Dumb (and Hungry) Burglars, and Why Google is Like Bananas
  2. Friday Follies: Cakes That Make You Laugh (Maybe), and Which Food Best Represents Your State
  3. Friday Follies: Green Bugs to Replace Red Meat On Your Plate?
  4. Friday Follies: How to Pour a Beer Every Second (Almost)
  5. How Beer Saved the World (and, You Heard It Here First!)
  6. Friday Follies: Become a Professional Beer Expert (And You Thought All You Had to Do Was Drink)
  7. What's for Dinner Gets Automated, In a Weird Sort of Way
  8. Follies Extra: Is That a Chile Pepper On Your Plate, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
  9. Friday Follies: Oh, You Wanted the Mayo On the Side, Eh?
  10. Friday Follies: Eating Like a Monk During Lent
  11. Friday Follies: O No, You Got a Spork in the Salad Shooter!
  12. Friday Follies: Food Network Now Wants to Play Ball
  13. Friday Follies: Chile Underground Voted Number One Food Blog
  14. Friday Follies: Beer, It's What's for Breakfast
  15. Friday Follies: The End of the World is Nigh, and Bacon is to Blame
  16. Virtual Reality Gives “Cookie Monster” a Whole New Meaning
  17. Friday Follies: Do-It-Yourself Egg Art, and That’s No Yolk
  18. Burger Follies: A Fight Over Killer Burgers, In-N-Out in Texas, and Burger America Goes Second Edition
  19. Friday Follies: Once I Saw These, I Didn’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance…
  20. Friday Follies: Peppers Help Preggers to Pop
  21. Follies: Barbeque That Goes Where You Go, All Day Long
  22. Follies: How to Carry Your Liquor, and Don’t Do’s at the Bar
  23. Going to China for the Aquatics Championships? Don’t Eat the Pork…
  24. Zesty Chili Doesn’t Make Lingerie More Exciting for One Woman
  25. Follies: Edible Clay, Eu de Play-Doh, and a Website You Can’t Live Without
  26. Important News Concerning Two Essential Food Groups: Beer and Hamburgers
  27. Follies Extra: A Multitude of Uses for Beer (Besides Drinking)
  28. Chocolate’s Better’n Carrots, But Is Miracle Whip Really Good for Your Love Life?
  29. Who Says Lutherans Don’t Know How to Party? Watch This…
  30. There’s Something Big Stirring at UMass…
  31. Salsa Proves Too Hot for Owner; He’s Smoked…
  32. Would You Like Some Al Yankovic With That Veal Cordon Bleu? And Other Food-Music News
  33. A Salmagundi of Savory Silliness
  34. Doritos Situation Grave, and (Lust for) Alcohol Makes You Stupid
  35. “A Bear Walked Into a Grocery…” And It’s No Joke…
  36. French Ban Ketchup? This Means War! Again…
  37. Armadillo as Weapon, Bar Fun With Guns, and Another Humongous Burger
  38. Pizza as Vegetable? Okay; Why Not Chocolate, or Cheez Whiz, or Kool Whip, or …
  39. A Meal That Makes You Glad You Have Leftovers From Thanksgiving
  40. Why This May Be the Last Christmas Ever
  41. If You’re Going Out Into the Snow, Take Your Beer Along (Lots of It)
  42. No Eat Strong Pig, Eat Monster Gummy Bear Instead
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2 comments to Friday Follies: Become a Professional Beer Expert (And You Thought All You Had to Do Was Drink)

  • Hey there Dr.!

    Great piece. Love the alternative positions there!

    Thanks for spreading the word on this work.

    Cheers and all the best.

    Samuel Merritt
    President, Civilization of Beer
    Certified Cicerone Tm.

  • Sam, (can I call you Sam?)

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m not sure why this topic made me chuckle at first. It’s a serious business! As a professional trainer (in my real job) I appreciate how tough it can be to assure knowledge and skills, especially in an emerging certification path. I wish you and your colleagues every success.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch and cheer from the sidelines, with an occasional post hereabout to update my readers…