How hard is it to pass the exam for the first level of the Cicerone Certification Program? I found out a couple of days ago.
First, some background. Though 7x7, like many other publications, has covered the topic of Cicerones previously, let’s review: In 2008, steadfast in his determination to improve service to beer consumers, Ray Daniels, renowned beer writer, judge, and festival organizer, established a certification program for beer professionals similar to the sommelier certifications for wine. Fast forward to today: There are more than 5,000 people certified at the first tier, Certified Beer Server; more than 200 at the second level, Certified Cicerone; and a scant three at the top of the hop heap, Master Cicerone.
This city might be the home of Anchor Steam, one of the nation’s first craft breweries, as well as the Lower Haight’s pioneering beer bar Toronado, but until a few years ago, the beer culture here has been mostly a “large-bearded-man-in-a-dirty-bar type of thing,” says Sayre Piotrkowski, cicerone at the Monk’s Kettle in the Mission.
A grimy dive is certainly not the domain of a cicerone, the term for a certified beer sommelier—the latest hip job in the drink world. According to the Cicerone Certification Program, started by Chicago-based beer expert Ray Daniels in 2007, cicerone literally means “one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums.” (The leap to beer might be a long one, but the 18th-century terminology sounds duly impressive.)