In the first part of Sipping Toward Cicerone® I walked you through the 4 levels of Cicerone® Certification. In this post, part 2, we’ll cover my studying for and taking the Certified Beer Server exam. In, part 3, we’ll look at my studying for the Certified Cicerone® exam. If you want to see how I did on the test, skip to part 4.
What beer loving nincompoop can’t get a 75% on a 60 question test about beer? You can literally miss 15 questions and still pass. Easy, right? Not really. Knowing what an IPA is vs. a Stout is one thing but do you know the 6 steps in properly cleaning a beer glass? Do you know how to properly store beer? How to properly pour it from a bottle? From a draught faucet? Elements of a draught system? The SRM of a Hefeweizen? What the hell SRM is? Yeah, not so easy now, is it?
For some, little to no studying is required. If you’ve worked as the bartender at a craft beer bar for 12 months, I’m absolutely confident that your studying can consist of a 30 minute date with the Certified Beer Server syllabus. For the rest of the planet, some actual studying is required. While I know my fair share about the frothy goodness that is beer, I’m not one to go into a test unprepared. I downloaded the syllabus and purchased “Tasting Beer” by Randy Mosher. From what I’d read, these two things are essentially all you need to pass the test.
The syllabus is ten pages long and is in bulleted form. That’s a whole lot of bullet points which equals a whole lot of info. This info can be compartmentalized in chunks and they actually do that for you with their format. This gives you an easy way to segment your studying.
“Tasting Beer” is, in my opinion, a very well-written book that discusses beer history, beer styles and common flavors found in beer and its ingredients. Read it once and you should have a general idea of these things. Read it twice and you will pick up A LOT of things you missed the first time.
After reviewing the syllabus and reading Tasting Beer, it was an easy choice for me to make flash cards for studying. I don’t recall ever making flash cards for myself before this. However, I didn’t have a smart phone in high school or college that had sweet apps like Cram to help me. I was able to make groups of flash cards that had all the appropriate bullet points from the syllabus, as well as notes from Tasting Beer all in one place. Whether I was waiting for an appointment, riding shotgun with the wife or lying in bed, I was able to study. I’m not a paid spokesperson for Cram but by golly, I sure do love that app.
Now we get to the one and only thing I don’t like about the Certified Beer Server test: The test is online. While it’s convenient, from what I’ve read, some folks take this as a license to keep Google handy on one tab and the test open on the other. With 30 seconds per question, I honestly don’t think you’d be able to cheat for each question and still pass in time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who won’t try. However, this type of passing is something I couldn’t be less interested in.
After studying since January, I took the test in May, 2015. Yes, I studied nearly five months for a 30 minute online test. Why so long? To be honest, I knowingly overstudied. The test wants you to know about perceived bitterness in a scale that uses “pronounced” and “assertive.” I learned that info plus the IBUs. You were supposed to know the color of beer using descriptors like “gold” and “straw.” I learned info that plus the SRM. I didn’t want to half ass it. I wanted to full ass it. I knew that a solid base on this test would prepare me for studying for Level 2, which was my true goal.
Now for the results: Drumroll please……………I passed. I passed with 59/60 in 11 minutes.
I told you I overstudied. I’m okay with the extra time I put in because I’m proud of my results and the foundation that I gave myself for studying for the Certified Cicerone® exam. From how difficult is sounds, I haven’t taken a test that rivals the the Certified Cicerone® exam in at least 10 years, if ever. On top of memorizing a plethora of facts, to pass the exam I’ll need to demonstrate beer knowledge in a recorded demo as well as pass a tasting portion. I’m up for the challenge but how will I do? Stay tuned for part 3 where I take you through my studying and actually sit for the test.