Maté Hartai (The Libertine), Sam Wynne (Flying Saucer/Meddlesome Moth), and Jeff Fryman (formerly of Union Bear and currently working on a new project with Matt Tobin and the folks at Goodfriend) are leaving for LA today. They hope to return as a Master Cicerones, the third and final level of certification of beer service. All three have already achieved the first two levels: Cicerone Certified Beer Server and Certified Cicerone. Today there are about 30 Certified Cicerones in the state. Currently, there are only four Master Cicerones in the country. Four. In the country.
Like the Master Sommelier program designed to provide high quality wine knowledge and service, the Cicerone Certification Program was created to change the image of beer from a twisting off a the top of a longneck to a experiencing the essence of a carefully crafted and sophisticated glass of beer served by experts.
The exam, limited to 12 participants, takes place Tuesday and Wednesday and includes written, oral, and tasting components. Four industry experts conduct extensive interview sessions and candidates must pass a rigorous blind assessment of beer styles. In other words, these guys have to be walking beer encyclopedias.
Sam tells me the group has been studying together for months hunkering down and comparing similar styles as conducting blind tasting to determine the style and origin and brewing company. They also studied with Wim Bens of Lakewood Brewing and Michael Peticolas of Peticolas Brewing Company. Recently Peticolas won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver for his Royal Scandal, a classic English-style pale ale. He’s only been open for about six months. “We also did sensory training using an off-flavor kits provided by the Seibel Institute in Chicago,” Wynne said. “Basically we use eyedroppers to put chemicals in our beer that replicate the flavors and aromas caused by mistreatment, poor sanitation, and fermentation conditions that are less than ideal. We trained ourselves to recognize these in commercial beer and be able to identify the cause of flaw to ensure the people we serve only receive top quality product.”