Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pre-Great Taste #10 - Cicerone Exam

You're probably wondering why this is here, but if you are in Madison on Friday the 12th (11am - 3pm at the Brickhouse BBQ on Gorham) and you serve beer professionally, you should sit for this exam.

You need to take the Certified Beer Server Exam online first (it costs $69 and if you know anything about beer, serving beer, and beer distribution you can probably pass without too much difficulty).

If you take and pass the Cicerone Exam (the one given on the 12th), you will be a Certified Cicerone. The exam costs $345.

Why do you care? Because you care about the beer that you serve. Because your customers care about the beer that you serve. Because if you want to work for a decent beer bar, either as a bar manager, cellerman, or even a server, in any major city in the US this will soon be a requirement.

This exam helps to standardize knowledge about beer. Certification demonstrates that you have a level of knowledge and expertise about tasting, pouring, and serving beer. While those who don't know may laugh or giggle (how hard can it be to serve a beer, right?) to do it right takes knowledge and practice that this exam provides evidence of.

In what situations would you recommend a Saison? What would you pair with a Belgian Blonde? Can you legitimately recommend a German Lager to a beer snob? Why? What's the difference between an American and English Brown Ale? I see your menu has a Belgian Dark and a Dubbel - what's the difference? Hmm...this beer tastes funny, is there something wrong with the tapline? Why is this damned tapline causing all of my beer to foam excessively? These are all questions that better beer servers need to be able to answer.

If you don't care about these questions, then you aren't taking beer seriously. This isn't a problem, but don't expect to serve or have serious beer customers. And expect customers to be disappointed when your service and product are unacceptable.

If you want to take beer seriously, you need to seriously consider the Cicerone Exam, either for yourself or your staff.

ps. I am not a Cicerone and I don't have any stake in the Cicerone folks. I just know that I was skeptical of the dubious "certification" that was provided, but when I went to a bar in Chicago that required this certification of its servers, I was amazed at how much better the service knowledge was.

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