The growth of beer sommeliers in the U.S.

For years wine experts have been acknowledged by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Now, the same degree of acknowledgement has been given to the beer experts. For the past four years, beer industry veteran Ray Daniels has been running the Cicerone Certification Program for people working in the beer industry, ranging from bartenders to brewers. There are three levels of certification: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone.

9000+ and strong

With the recent announcement of Nicole Erny, the first woman and the youngest to become Master Cicerone, the highest of all Cicerone certifications (only four Master Cicerones in the nation), the number of people in the service industry getting certified through Ray’s program is growing rapidly. As of January 13, 2012, there are 337 certified in the second level of the program and 9,024 certified in the first level.

The Certified Beer Server (first level) can be obtained by passing an online test that requires the test taker to have a competent knowledge of beer service, styles, culture and the brewing process. Whereas the other two levels require extensive testing on location.

The whole idea is to have the people “who are serving us beer to know what the hell they are talking about,” Ray says.

The growth

Ray explains that the growth has been organic, “I didn’t come to it with an expectation. I came up to it, saying this is something that should be done and is something the beer community can use. I am going to make it available and if people embrace it, great. Rather than trying to force feed it, I let people think about it, ruminate on it, and come back to us.”

The brand name “Certified Cicerone” is getting more popular than ever, at least in the beer industry. “I think in the beer industry, certainly at the brewer level or the distributor level, you don’t have to explain it anymore. People know what it is. People are either looking to hire or get their people certified.”

The interview

Here is a video interview of Taste Terminal host Jace Milstead with Ray Daniels at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival in October 2011.

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