Cicerone (Pronunciation: /ˌtʃɪtʃəˈrəʊni/ˌsɪsəˈrəʊni) Noun (plural ciceroni, pronounced same): A guide who gives information about places of interest to sightseers.
But that's not what we're talking about here. Not entirely, at least.
While the SAB World of Beer has several cicerones in its team – men and women who take visitors on our award-winning beer tour – a cicerone in the beer-making (as opposed to beer-guiding) world is something quite different.
You may have heard of a wine sommelier – it's a common term for someone who is an expert in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. You'll find that their knowledge is often on tap at high-end restaurants or wineries. But when it comes to beverages that are served on tap, there has not been a term that properly describes beer experts – until a relatively short time ago, when, in 2007, along came Chicago-based craft brewer Ray Daniels and his Cicerone Certification Program.
Daniels was a pioneer in the American beer scene for years prior to the formation of the programme: he'd judged beer competitions, launched festivals and written four books. What he realised the beer industry needed, however, was servers who knew beer – how to choose it, pour it, pair it; how to talk about its past, present and future; how to educate and advise; and how to pass on a passion for beer. His programme was designed with this in mind.
The Cicerone Certification Program comprises three levels and three tests, which become increasingly complex as you progress. There first level is Certified Beer Servers, an online exam; the second is Certified Cicerones, an in-person test and beer tasting; and the top level is Master Cicerone, an intensive two-day, in-person exam. Five different areas are covered: serving beer, beer styles, beer flavour and evaluation, the brewing process and ingredients, and beer and food pairing.
Since its launch, the programme has flourished like a crop of happy hops. It has been hailed by Julia Herz, craft beer programme director at the Brewers Association in the United States, as "the most advanced and difficult beer education programme in existence", and has also been described as "the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service".
Daniels decided on the term "cicerone" since he wanted the men and women who graduated from his programme "to think of themselves not as experts, but guides leading customers to memorable beer experiences", as the Chicago Tribune explains.
Looking for Daniels' ultimate cicerone advice? "It takes two hands to pour a beer."