There are many reasons why there are only about 2500 Certified Cicerones®1 in the world, but really it boils down to one big one: it’s hard.
If the Certified Cicerone exam was easy everyone would have passed it by now and it wouldn’t have the same level of professional prestige it currently has. It not only demands a huge time commitment of months if not years of study, it’s also pretty pricey. The exam itself costs around $400 to take, assuming you don’t need to retake part, if not all of it (which many people do). That price doesn’t include the money you may shell out for reference material (both written and liquid) and study courses. While these components are optional, they can make the difference of passing or failing depending on your level of previous knowledge.
But there are as many paths that lead to passing the Certified Cicerone exam as there are reasons for taking it. While many beer industry professionals are sponsored by their employers, just as many pay for the test out of pocket (adding that much more pressure to do well). To get a better idea about the exam and the process, I reached out to three individuals who have taken and passed the Certified Cicerone Exam who kindly shared their experiences. Here’s what they had to say about why they took the exam and what it took to pass:
Kerry Bryan — St. Louis Beer Ranger, New Belgium Brewing
Chris Gorman — Sales and Marketing Manager for Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.
Justin Phelps — Co-founder of Saint Brewis Beer Website