So I passed my Certified Cicerone® exam.
Holy crap. I honestly didn’t know if I would. The amount of knowledge we are expected to have mastered is insane. Feeling unprepared on October 7th and changing my test date from the 11th to the 8th, is insane. Thinking that I was up to the challenge at all, is insane. But somehow I did it.
For those who don’t know, the Cicerone Certification Program is an organization that issues levels of certification for beer knowledge. This knowledge includes beer styles, beer flavor and evaluation, beer storage and serving, brewing processes, beer ingredients, and beer and food pairing. There are three levels: Beer Server Cicerone, Certified Cicerone®, and Master Cicerone®. The Beer Server Cicerone test (which I passed in June) consists of 60 questions in an online test. The Certified Cicerone® exam is administered in person and last for four hours, including 150 short-answer questions, four essays, a tasting section, and a recorded demonstration. The Master Cicerone® exam is also administered in person and occurs over two days. It consists of essay questions, oral examinations, and extensive tasting. And it’s fucking terrifying. But more on that later…
When I got my results for my Certified Cicerone® exam, it was a wee bit anticlimactic. I was told it would be 4-8 weeks before I received them. Having waited about the same amount of time for [insert tired Comcast installation window reference here], I knew it would be torture. I was not disappointed: it was! But, luckily, the turmoil in my delicate headmeat lasted exactly 29 days, well short of the pessimistic 60.
When my phone dinged at me and I saw that it was my “beer business only” email that was pregnant with news, I positively buzzed with excitement. I was sitting in the Bearded Brewer’s truck while he was loading the back with trash to take to the transfer station (woohoo living in the mountains!) I shouted something along the lines of “akh;ladsfkhasdkfjh CICERONE lksjlfksdj IN HERE andalkdjflasdf BLARGHHHHHHHH!”
The Bearded Brewer spent several star lifecycles perfectly arranging the bags in the bed of the truck before climbing into the seat next to me. I had my finger hovering over the little envelope symbol, ready for liftoff as soon as he was seated next to me.
CLICK. Or, rather, TAP.
I expected to get the email from the Cicerone program and have to actually open it to find out if I was a badass or if it was time for one of my legendary 10-hour long shower, booze, and sob-fests. Instead, I received the email from the program with my scores, and immediately above it, an email titled “Certified Cicerone Roster and Logo.” It kind of gave the game away. Not that I’m ungrateful, but I do like the manufactured tension of waiting to see who will be the Biggest Loser (hint: it’s the one who looks like Skeletor).
I tend to get excited about really dumb things. Like the time the Cupcake Truck tweeted that they were coming all the way out to my job in the industrial area of Denver and I ran around the office waving my hands like Kermit and shrieking that everyone HAD to buy a cupcake or I would just DIE. Or every single time I see a Siberian husky.
Maybe it was the premature evaluation based on the email trail. Maybe it was the “Cool” and high-five I received from the Bearded Brewer. Maybe it was the fact that said male companion proceeded to have a meltdown when he realized the transfer station was now closed and he would have to unload the trash from the truck and bring it another day. Maybe it was that this was not something “stupid”, but a really big deal that should be taken seriously. But while I had a momentary high one gets from finding out they aren’t getting kicked out of school or that there’s minus on the ClearBlue, that was all I had.
I tried to give my excitement some CPR by posting my results on Facebook and Twitter, but that didn’t help. When my mom called (justifiably pissed that I had told my “friends” before her), that should of saved it. But no. The sob-fest was not to be avoided. My exultation had been aborted and there was no way of reviving it.
Now, one would surmise that, being a beer geek, I would immediately drown my sorrows & celebrate my triumph in as much high-quality beer as I could gather. But I couldn’t. The thought of drinking beer actually made things worse. I guess this would be the best argument against those who have posited that I might possibly be an alcoholic: when I was at the lowest of low, the LAST thing I wanted was a drink.
The only thing that made me feel better was to re-read and re-re-read my results email and see how I made that test my bitch. Well, at least some of the test.
Overall Score: 91% (Blam!)
Tasting Exam: 100% (Blam blam!)
Keeping and Serving Beer: 86% (No so much of a blam, but still okay I guess)
Beer Styles: 91% (Blam!)
Beer Flavor & Evaluation: 99% (Blammidy blam!)
Ingredients & Process: 92% (Blam!)
Beer & Food Pairing: 85% (Let’s just pretend you didn’t see that one…)
And, bizarrely enough, it was something in the letter that is probably on all the emails the program sends out, that I kept returning to. In my Eeyoric state, it meant something truly special to me:
“Great scores, Dev!”
The Grading Manager for the Cicerone Program thought that my scores were “great.” For some reason, my partner’s cool response, my friends’ congratulations, my parents’ pride could not shake me loose. But that one little sentence on a form letter from a stranger kept the light alive. I am one strange puppy.
So now, I have a nifty, trademarked title after my name that tells people that, maybe, I do know one or two things about beer.
And now, a week later, I AM excited. (Cue uplifting scrappy-underdog-beats-all-odds music). It’s awesome. And other people think it’s awesome, too. My friends: Fixie and Janelle and Zack and Courtney and Thomas and Sarah and Britt and Joe and Mike and Bill and Matt and Allison and I’m forgetting so many other people and feel like a jerk – but MY FRIENDS! My family: Mom and Dad and Jae and Jess and Libby and Jim and Joanna and Amy and Yvonne and Joe and Sharon! Fans of the Brewery Rickoli Facebook page where the news was posted! The Rickoli’s Grand Crew! The owner of Barrels & Bottles in Golden who gave me a big hug when I introduced myself! The brewer at Sanitas who gave me an awesome high-five! And yes, the Bearded Brewer.
It feels good.
Then there are some who may not see this as the accomplishment it is. I recognize that not everyone respects brewing and beer as the serious and nuanced business it is. And the Cicerone program has a long way to go before being universally recognized on the same level as the Sommelier program. I get it, I do. But just as I don’t fully grasp what goes into becoming a Certified Project Manager or a Pharmacist or a respectable member of society, doesn’t mean that I can’t respect that amount of dedication and work that goes into gaining that title.
I guess what I’m trying to say cannot be stated in any better way than this:
Despite a bit of a rocky start, I am very excited to see where this all takes me. I’m giving myself around two years to study for the Master Cicerone® exam, which only takes place 1-2 times per year. The third-level test is far more extensive than the Certified Cicerone® exam, and virtually requires a trip (or two) to Europe to tour breweries and taste beers (I know, sounds horrible, right?) Give a peek at the Master Cicerone® syllabus to give some idea of what I’m in for. Yes, just the syllabus is 23 pages long.
But I am finally excited. If I’ve learned anything from these first few steps (besides 63 beer styles, all of their qualitative and quantitative data, beer and food pairings, brewing, and serving beer, that is), it’s that I’m a journey person, not a destination seeker. It’s all about the ride and learning as much as I can. Of course I want to succeed and have a shiny new pin and a title after my name, but it’s the knowledge that really gets my yahyahs going.
There are only ~1,000 Certified Cicerones® in the world, and only seven Master Cicerones®, so it’s a huge mountain to climb. But I’ve already reached Base Camp Number Two. The path is steep and littered with dead beer cans and bottles, but I think I can do it. Tell the summit I’m coming for it.
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