Advanced Cicerone Exam, Here I Come!

It’s official: I’m taking the Advanced Cicerone exam in February.

The Advanced Cicerone level was introduced in 2015 and exams for it began in 2016. To date, there are thirteen Advanced Cicerones worldwide. Yes, just thirteen – partly because the Advanced Cicerone level is new, but also partly because passing the Advanced Cicerone is no small feat. The Advanced Cicerone level was introduced to create an intermediate level between the Certified Cicerone and the Master Cicerone, of which there are eleven worldwide. The Master Cicerone level is incredibly difficult to attain and boasts about a nine percent pass rate.

In a little over six months, I’ll go to the Cicerone Certification Program offices in Chicago, where I’ll sit for the day-long exam. The Advanced Cicerone exam will cover a subset of the information within the Master Cicerone exam and will have the same sections tested on each Cicerone level exam: keeping and serving beer; beer styles; beer flavor and evaluation; beer ingredients and brewing processes; and pairing beer with food. While the Certified Cicerone syllabus is twenty pages long, the Advanced Cicerone syllabus is twenty-three pages long. Although that may not seem like much of a difference, there is a lot more material covered in the Advanced Cicerone syllabus.

If you’ve read my five-part blog series on becoming a Certified Cicerone, you may recall that I registered for a November Certified Cicerone exam in late August, which gave me about 10 weeks to study. This time around, I have six months to study, which puts me in a much more comfortable spot than I was when I first registered for the Certified Cicerone. I also have the experience of studying for (and hopefully passing) the Beer Judge Certification Program tasting exam. I won’t know the results of that exam for another month or so, but I feel good about it.

While knowing that I have six months to study, I’m having a hard time not feeling overwhelmed by starting the studying process over again. To take the Advanced Cicerone, you have to first be a Certified Cicerone and then you have to enter a lottery for one of exams offered. Currently there have only been four exam dates announced for 2017. When I received the email that I had won a spot for one of the February exams, I was excited but also apprehensive. For one thing, the Advanced Cicerone is expensive AF and I needed to figure out how to pay the exam fee. For another, I wasn’t sure I could prioritize the exam within my already busy schedule. I really wanted to register for it, though, plus friends who found out I was considering not taking the opportunity resoundingly and emphatically encouraged me to register. One night last week, Tom and I sat down and figured out financially how we could make it work – once you’re notified that you’re eligible, you only have a week to pay the exam fee before you lose your spot, so it’s not like I had a lot of time to pay the exam fee. Agreeing that we would be okay eating rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for awhile, I registered for the exam.

I’ve resigned myself to flying to Chicago for the exam although I would prefer to drive. Actually, I wouldn’t prefer to drive so much as I would prefer to load up the back of my SUV with boxes of sweet sweet Chicagoland beer. Like “lay down the seats to make it all fit” load up. However, I don’t want to end up driving into an snowstorm or an ice storm and jeopardizing my safety and peace of mind right before such a big exam. Also, my stress level will already be through the roof, so I don’t want to add any additional unknowns that will make me even more stressed out.

Now I’ve got a lot of studying and learning to do in the next six months. A positive note is that I get to go back and spend some time in my favorite place in the whole wide world – Chicago. I missed Charlotte for a bit when we moved to Chicago a few years ago (especially when I was still wearing my winter coat in May), but not nearly as much as I still miss Chicago. It’s a kind of homesickness that doesn’t seem to fade. Maybe visiting in late February will knock that longing out of me. Another (even more) positive note is that this time around I have friends who are also studying for various levels of Cicerone certification right now, so I’ll have a wider group of people with whom I can study and do tastings.

In the upcoming months, you’ll probably see a lot of blog posts that are reflective of what I’m studying and concepts I’m trying to figure out. If you have any beer-related questions, feel free to shoot me an email at I’ve found one of the most helpful ways to learn concepts is to explain them to other people. And my offer still stands that if someone out there is looking for a Cicerone study buddy, I’m happy to volunteer. Wish me luck!