Craft beer is the darling of the booze industry these days, with sales up 14% for the first half of the year. No wonder, then, that Cicerones are arriving on the scene. Much like a sommelier, these beer stewards are popping up at restaurants and bars in order to guide patrons through the beer list and suggest the perfect pairing (sample: Firestone Union Jack IPA with Roquefort cheese). But becoming a Cicerone, a title that the Wall Street Journal explains comes from the Italian and refers to a person "who conducts sightseers," involves more than downing an impressive number of six-packs.
As the Journal reports, the five-year-old Cicerone Certification Program, started by a Chicago-based beer writer, has turned out 611 Cicerones and four Master Cicerones (along with thousands of entry-level Beer Servers). To be a certified Master, one must take a two-day in-person test during which one must demonstrate "encyclopedic knowledge of beer" and a "highly refined tasting ability"—which means being able to taste the difference between a German-style and Bohemian pilsner. True knowledge, for sure, but some critics say it's unnecessary: Unlike wine, which can have four-figure price tags, beer drinkers can explore a menu without committing an overly pricey mistake.