How to Become a Beer Sommelier. Make that a ‘Cicerone’

on 02/02/11 at 9:27 am


The brewing world has become a complex place in the last decade. Craft beer is now the norm in many areas throughout the country, bringing with it huge diversity in styles and flavors. As a result, bars and restaurants can no longer rely on a sommelier to maintain enough expertise in both wine and beer to satisfy increasingly educated drinkers. Enter, the cicerone.

A cicerone has traditionally been defined as a guide – someone associated with sites of interest to tourists and sightseers who can provide information far above and beyond what the average hourly employee or volunteer is capable of. Only recently has the cicerone title had anything to do with delicious beer. According to the incredibly appropriately named Elliott Beier, a certified cicerone and beer director at Chicago’s Owen & Engine pub, a cicerone “…exists to ensure excellence in beer service – to make sure it’s poured right, stored right, and to help educate people about good craft beer. A cicerone elevates craft beer in the eyes of consumers and introduces them to styles and bottles they might otherwise never have known existed.”

Much like sommeliers, cicerones are certified experts in their field. They learn about virtually every aspect of beer – different styles, pairings, even storage and draft systems. Most budding cicerones get their start in the hospitality industry – most often coming from liquor distributors, behind the bar, and restaurant management. Anyone can learn, though, and starting from a solid knowledge base one can progress through the ranks, becoming a certified beer server in short order and then progressing on to become a full-fledged cicerone in about a year, depending on experience.

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