Anyone can call themselves an expert on beer. But when consumers want great beer they need help from a server who really knows beer flavors, styles, and service. They also want to buy beer from a place that understands proper storage and serving so the beer they drink will taste the way it should. Too often great beer is harmed by improper handling and service practices.
In the wine world, the word "sommelier" designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. At one time, some beer servers adopted the title "beer sommelier" to tie into the credibility of the wine world. But in the years since its founding, the Cicerone Certification Program has become the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service. The Cicerone Certification Program offers independent assessment and certification so that industry professionals—as well as consumers—can be sure of the knowledge and skills possessed by current and prospective beer servers.
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. If you want to see the full scope of what a Master Cicerone® should know, click here to see the Master Cicerone® Syllabus.
A Quick Introduction
"Cicerone" is pronounced "sis-uh-rohn"
The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to ensure that consumers receive the best quality beer at every service occasion. 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®
This website offers extensive information about the program, including free study resources and sample exam questions. It also allows you to access or register for the certification exams and the optional paid education programs that we offer.
Your starting point for becoming certified is to register on this website by clicking on “My Account.” Once you register, your “My Account” page will be customized to your level and progress so that you will see the courses and exam(s) that are appropriate for you. As a registered user, you also gain access to additional free materials such as the syllabus for your level, etc.
Can anyone call themselves a cicerone?
No, they can not. The Craft Beer Institute holds registered trademarks on the use of the word "cicerone." Please see our "Titles, Trademarks and Proper Use" page for more information.
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.” A Certified or Master Cicerone® possesses the knowledge and skills to guide those interested in beer culture, including its historic and artistic aspects. These titles now designate 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?
The Certified Cicerone® and Master Cicerone® are tested and proven experts 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.
Who started the Cicerone program?
The Cicerone Certification Program was founded by Ray Daniels, a long-time home brewer, beer author and festival and event organizer. Daniels brings more than 20 years of brewing, judging, studying and writing about beer to the task of managing the Cicerone program.
Prior to starting Cicerone, Daniels worked for 9 years at the Brewers Association, the trade group for small brewers in the US as a magazine editor, book publisher and promoter of craft beer. Prior to that, he was also a leader in the Chicago Beer Society for more than 10 years where he helped create many events including the annual Brewpub Shootout and what is now “Day/Night of the Living Ales.” He also organized many homebrew competitions and events.
Daniels is an author of four books and scores of articles on brewing or beer. His first book, Designing Great Beers (Brewers Publications), is a classic of US brewing literature which has sold more than 100,000 copies. Other titles include Brown Ales, Smoked Beers and 101 Ideas for Homebrew Fun. He also self-published The Perfect Pint: Producing Real Ale in America.
Daniels education includes a B.S. in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University as well as top marks in the Siebel Diploma Course in Brewing. He also completed graduate coursework in brewing science and brewery engineering through Herriot-Watt University.
In addition to being the Founder and Director at the Cicerone Certification Program; Ray is currently a senior faculty member at the Siebel Institute of Technology, America's oldest brewing school and an investor in Revolution Brewing Co.
Craft Beer Institute and Cicerone Certification Program are registered business names in the state of Illinois. The Craft Beer Institute is the business entity Daniels has used for a variety of beer-related activities since 1996 such as the Chicago Real Ale Festival and minor publishing or educational activities.