A Day in the Life of a Master Cicerone TM Candidate

Staff Writer
Civilization of Beer founder, Samuel Merritt, opens up about preparing for the Master Cicerone TM beer sommelier exam.
Guinness beer
Maryse Chevriere

Guinness beer

Dear The Daily Meal,

Please wish me well as I study for next week’s Master Cicerone TM. beer sommelier exam. I'm as nervous as I've ever been...for anything. Here is the link to the syllabus. If you'd like to call and quiz me, I would be grateful.

As I write you today, I'm surrounded by beer books, piles of grain, hops, highlighters, old notebooks, beer sensory kits, beer equilibrium calculators, hydrometers, and many many index cards. This pile of knowledge resembles a levee around my office and on it, beer and coffee stains mingle all Rorschachy and speedballish. As the exam draws closer, my mnemonic devises are taking strange turns and getting farfetched and surreal. Time is either flying by or slowing to a crawl. There's no happy in between time, there is just the exam...

It will take place over two days next week in Chicago and and I've already paid for the exam, hotel and travel. There's no getting out of it...no turning back. I'm past anxious and close to losing it. One string of hope that I'm holding on to is that I'm in the midst of a damn good beer career that began in 1996 with a sales route on the West Side of Manhattan and has gone well from there. Let's just say the winds of change that have blown in and affected culinary attitudes in the US have been good to my part of the beer world, and my small beer education consulting company, Civilization of Beer, is thriving and growing.

The mission of Civilization of Beer is to promote, through education and appreciation, the responsible enjoyment of high quality beer in the context of our rapidly changing culinary landscape. Our primary goal is to close the gap between wine studies and beer studies in the professional culinary community and return beer to its proper place at the American table.

If I test well and earn this trademarked certification, we will be much closer to achieving our mission and goal and I believe we'll have a lot more to contribute to our culinary world. To give you a better idea of what you’re wishing me luck for, here is a brief outline of what the program entails:

The three-level Cicerone program independently tests and certifies people on the knowledge required to sell and serve beer properly.

The first level is Certified Beer Server TM. and requires candidates to pass an online, timed exam consisting of 60 multiple choice questions about beer storage and service, ingredients, brewing process, flavor and evaluation, and food pairing. There are about 1,500 Cicerone Certified Beer Servers in the US.

The second level is Certified Cicerone TM. This requires an in-person, 4 hour exam consisting of a written portion with essays, multiple choice and short answers as well as an oral exam, blind tasting and equipment demonstration. I am at this level along with about 140 other people.

The Master Cicerone TM. exam is 12 hours over two days and consists of 8 hours of written, 2 hours of oral and 2 hours of blind tasting and demonstration. Last fall, 7 candidates took this exam for the first time, one person passed.

I've got to get back to it, but I promise to tell you about the experience when I know what happened. I'm either helping myself by writing this or I'm giving myself a ton of bad luck. I guess we’ll see in a month or so.