MC Cheese Mongers Test for Cicerone Certification
By Justin Dolezal
We here at Mission Cheese take our love, enthusiasm, and geekery for all things artisan and delicious seriously, and that passion doesn't stop at American cheese. Case in point: cheesemongers Sam Chapple-Sokol, Eric Miller, and Justin Dolezal spent the last few months reliving experiences most of us would prefer to have left in our collegiate years: months of study, memorization, and theoretical discussion, culminating in a 5 hour, multi-stage test with professional implications. The goal was to pass the Certified Cicerone Exam, a graduate-level test of all things beer.
For the uninitiated, the Cicerone Program is the beer world's answer to the long established Sommelier program, which certifies professionals within the world of fine wine. Founded by former brewer and industry expert Ray Daniels in 2008, the program seeks to identify and certify the knowledge of those working in the beer world. Much like the Sommelier program, the Cicerone program has multiple levels of certification: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone, and Master Cicerone. Over 50,000 individuals around the world have been certified through the program to date.
Though preparing for a beer exam may seem like a relative lark compared to other fields of study, the test itself is designed to be extremely rigorous, covering a wide range of sudsy knowledge. Applicants are tested on beer history, styles, service, flavor evaluation, and food pairing. In addition to the 3 hour written exam, the test also includes a blind tasting portion which includes both style evaluation and off-flavor identification. A video-recorded demonstration of beer service is also included. Passing the exam requires countless hours of intense preparation, and the passing rates for the exam are lower than that of most state's BAR exams (take that Edwin, my high school nemesis who went into law).
What does this mean for you, and your experience at Mission Cheese? You can rest (and eat) assured, knowing that the beers you're enjoying along with your cheese flights have been selected, cared for, and paired by people with a deep passion for beer, and the knowledge to back it up. If you have questions about the Cicerone Program, or beer itself, don't hesitate to ask!