Category Archives: Cicerone Exam

Thoughts on becoming

I am in a study group for people planning to take the Cicerone exam this year.  It is being held by one of our distributors and most the people in the group work for the distributor.  Everyone in the group is a busy person. Either they are a rep or brand manager for the distributor or like me, they are a decision maker at a bar/restaurant.  This group and the test are major commitments.   They not only have jobs but families as well. So, for most of the people taking it, the goal is simply to pass the test to put the title on your resume.

That means during the class, the leader, who has passed the test, gets, “Will this be on the test?” when he gives out information.  I understand, these people are busy and they are trying to improve themselves professionally and make themselves stand out from the crowd at their company.  It never occurs to me to ask that question.  This isn’t a value judgment, but I’m just in the room for a different reason.

Some people find their thing when they are young.  How many times have we read a story about a successful doctor, scientist, lawyer, or teacher who says they always knew that is what they wanted to be.  From an early age, they pushed themselves to become the thing that they are and they love their life.

Then there are some people for who, becoming is the whole point of life.  It takes these people a while to find their thing.  Sometimes, however, when these people find their thing, they treasure it more than the ones who’ve always known.  The people who find their thing later in life value the thing because finding it is the point of their journey.  For them, finding their thing isn’t the end of the journey, but the next phase of it.

For me, the Cicerone exam isn’t an end.  It is a line of demarcation in a journey that will take me to whatever it is that I’m to become before I die.  I work in craft beer not because I expect to make lots of money from it or get famous because of it.  I work in craft beer because I find the whole thing interesting.  From beer itself, how it is brewed, and how subtle changes in just 4 ingredients can affect the look and taste of what we drink; to the laws that govern beer and alcohol in this country; all the way to how craft beer culture often reflects the best and worst of American culture at large.

Yes, I want to ace the Cicerone test.  I want to do it to learn as much as possible about beer and to continue my journey of becoming who I am.  Getting as high a score as possible will prove to myself that I have a good knowledge of beer and a base for the writing and work I want to continue in the industry.

Becoming A Cicerone 132 Days Left

One of my favorite questions I get behind the bar is, “What’s a saison?”  I can answer that question a little better now, even though the answer to that question is rather vague.

My first week of Cicerone study concentrated on Belgian style beers.  Belgian style beers are probably my favorite family of beers to drink.  Belgian style beer guidelines are sometimes vague.  See saisons.  That helps make them some of the most interesting and flavorful beers.  I have found every Belgian style beer I’ve drunk to be interesting.  It was a good week and I know a lot more than when I started.

This week will be the British family of beers.  These were the first beer styles I really got into.  The first craft beer I ever drank was an English style brown (Pete’s Wicked Ale) and I drank and enjoyed English style IPAs before I ever drank a west coast hop bomb.

I’ll have at least one more update this week.  Until later.

Becoming A Cicerone, 138 Days Left

Yesterday, I continued my journey through Belgian beers by with Trappist Ales:  Dubbel, Tripel, Golden Strong.  I like the way the outline groups similar beers from a style grouping.  It helps you associate beers together which makes it easier to learn.  Next up will be the pale Belgian ales and other Belgian style beers.

I will be joining a study group in the next few weeks.  That will help with the tasting/off flavor portion of the test.

These updates will vary in length and in frequency.  I can say at the very worst, they will appear weekly.  Most likely they will be mostly daily.  Until tomorrow.

Becoming a Cicerone, 139 Days left

So, I’m taking the Cicerone exam in May.  I am, as they say in poker, pot committed.  I plunked down the money for it, so I’m taking that exam barring some unforeseen event.

I began the process of studying yesterday.  The first thing I did was take the practice test to see what my deficiencies are.  It wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but not as bad as it could have been.  I need to go over the draught manual again and reread Tasting Beer mostly for the beer and food pairing, but that was kind of expected.

The main area I need to concentrate on are the styles and flavor/evaluation section. That is 25% of the test.  There are details about styles that I had forgotten that are important.  That is going to be my main area of study for the next 5 months.

This week I’m starting with Belgian family of beers easing my way in with Lambic, Gueuze, Fruit Lambic, Flanders Red Ale, and Oud Bruin.  It’s the details.  Going in, I knew these styles, but I didn’t know these styles.  It’s the subtle differences that make them all different and make it important when you get a question asking about a spontaneously fermented beer made with wheat.  That is a Lambic.

I know that now and know the difference between the different versions of Lambic and the difference between Lambics and the Flanders style sours.

For the next few days, I’ll be walking through the rest of the world of the Belgian beers. Next up Dubbel, Tripel, Belgian Dark Strong Ale.