When I first moved to Utah in the fall of 2013, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. With experience in retail, warehouse operations, and the service industry, I opted for the most lucrative job I could find. A bar in downtown Salt Lake City called Whiskey Street was about to open, and I quickly found myself apron deep in serving shifts and decent cash. What I didn’t expect was the knowledge I’d gain from being in an alcohol-centric environment. Most of my previous serving jobs lacked focus on craft beverages. But I was now expected to know the difference between mezcal and tequila, which beers on draught were lagers, how to pronounce words like Islay, and how to traditionally serve absinthe. My mind was flooded with new knowledge of a world I had hardly dabbled in. But it wasn’t until a coworker mentioned the Cicerone Certification Program that I took the first step toward one of these new boozy fascinations and my current career in the brewing industry.
The Cicerone Certification Program sets the industry standard for beer knowledge, and offers four levels of certification. The first level, and the one this blog post will focus on, is Certified Beer Server. After hearing about it, I did some research, and the title seemed both exciting to work toward and attainable. I printed the syllabus, purchased a book or two, and studied my way to the title of Certified Beer Server a few months later. I immediately decided to continue learning by studying for the Certified Cicerone® exam, which I passed in the summer of 2015. (See my previous blog entitled Certified Cicerone® Study Resources to learn more about the second level of the Cicerone Certification Program.) My new found passion turned into a full time job when I starting working for Red Rock Brewing Company, where I still work today.
Had I not learned about and pursued the Certified Beer Server title, or if it had not existed, I may not be where I am today. This blog post wouldn’t exist, nor would the Crafty Beer Girls blog, at least in its current state. The Certified Beer Server title is an excellent way to become more proficient at basic beer knowledge, either for your own enjoyment or for your job, and may even spark a new career.
Here are some tips and study resources to help guide you on the path to becoming a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.
This is where it all begins. Use this site to sign up for exams, download the syllabus, and locate study resources.
It may be possible, depending on your current beer knowledge, for you to pass the Certified Beer Server exam without studying. But why chance it? You’ll want to download and print the syllabus so you at least know what you’re up against. Use it to organize your study, and take notes in the margin.
Here is a short overview of the exam.
- The exam cost is $69
- There are 60 multiple choice questions.
- You will have 30 minutes to take the exam (30 seconds per question)
- You must achieve a grade of 75% or higher to pass (15 wrong answers allowed)
- You must first pass a 10 question pre-quiz (unlimited attempts allowed)
- You must also pass the Cicerone Program Knowledge Pre-test (unlimited attempts allowed)
- Two attempts are allowed for the full exam per exam credit purchase
- There are five areas of focus
- Keeping and Serving Beer
- Beer Styles
- Beer Flavor & Evaluation
- Beer Ingredients and Brewing Processes
- Pairing Beer With Food
While the Certified Beer Server Syllabus will tell you the areas of study, it can be vague on how deeply you need to know each topic. It’s very easy to overstudy for this exam, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, unless you’re planning to take the Certified Cicerone® exam later in life, you’ll want a bit of guidance. Enter the Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Beer Server Exam.
I did not discover The Beer Scholar Study Guides by Advanced Cicerone™ Chris Cohen until late in my study for the Certified Cicerone® exam. The delivery, accuracy, and depth of his study guides make them the most streamlined method of exam preparation available. For $40, you will receive a PDF of the Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Beer Server Exam, as well as four practice tests. These practice tests are gold, and will show you exactly what you need to improve on before attempting the official exam.
Why pay $40 when you’re already spending $69 on the exam?
If you fail the two exam attempts that come with the $69 price tag, you’ll have to pay another $69 to take it a third time ($69 + $69 = $138). If you purchase the study guide and thoroughly study its contents, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll fail ($69 + $40 = $109). Save yourself almost $30 and have the peace of mind that everything you need to know is in one place.
The study guide will save you a lot of time searching the internet and reading books looking for insight on exam topics.
You won’t waste time overstudying for the exam. The study guide provides the exact depth of detail required to pass without flooding your already full mind with content you won’t be tested on.
The Cicerone Certification Program uses the Beer Judge Certification Program’s 2015 Style Guidelines for all levels of certification as a standard of exactly what each style is meant to be. How many IPAs have you tasted that don’t taste the same? The BJCP Style Guidelines tell you exactly what an American IPA should look, smell, and taste like, among other qualities. The guidelines also include some historic information and other relative tidbits. There are way more styles in the BJCP guidelines than you’re expected to know for the Certified Beer Server Exam, so be sure to study the pertinent ones.
If you’re a visual person or want a more user friendly version of style guidelines, these flashcards are an excellent resource. They’re also convenient for travel or keeping in your desk at work. Be sure to pick up the set of flashcards that reflects the most recent version of the exam (V3). Also, take note that these flashcards do not include the styles you are required to study for the Certified Cicerone® exam. To remedy this, I made my own flashcards out of note cards, punched a hole in the top left, and added them to the existing cards. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. Or if that’s too aesthetically displeasing, you can always cough up another $14.95 for the Certified Cicerone Expansion® set.
Tasting Beer should be the very first book in anyone’s beer book library. The Certified Beer Server Study Guide, as well as the BJCP Style Guidelines can be dry and tough to choke down. Tasting Beer is a vibrant introduction to the world of beer, including history, ingredients, brewing process, styles, and everything in between. The information is presented using terminology understood by beer nubiles and veterans alike. A firm grasp on the content within is a great sign you’ll do well on the Certified Beer Server Exam. The second edition of this book was released on April 4th, 2017. Get the newest edition for the most up to date and comprehensive information!
That’s it! Short and sweet. The key to studying for this exam is focus. It’s easy to study things you won’t be tested on, so check your progress against the syllabus to make sure you’re on track. That being said, why stop with the Certified Beer Server certification? If you find yourself seeking out a wider breadth and depth of beer knowledge, I highly suggest you strive for the Certified Cicerone® certification. More information can be found at my blog post entitled Certified Cicerone® Study Resources.
This list will continue to grow as I find new resources, but it will likely stay small to encourage focused study. I hope it helps guide you into becoming a Certified Beer Server and beyond. If you have any questions about the exam, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Here’s to learning a little more about our favorite beverage every day!