2024 update: Key resources for the Certified Cicerone® exam

cert cicerone exam advice certified cicerone Apr 09, 2024

Before we go further, it's worth noting that the very best resource on the market for crushing the Certified Cicerone® exam quickly and easily is my Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone Exam. Yes, I'm biased, also, that's 100% objective fact. Here's why. Simple organization done for you – the video lessons perfectly track the entire CC syllabus and summarize everything you need to know at the correct depth of knowledge.

The course also includes loads of tips and tricks for how to beat the exam. Considering that it still has a pass rate under 40%, those tips are critical. You get several full practice exams so you go into the real thing already knowing you'll pass. You get access to the best flashcard decks ever made for the CC, which make learning the beer styles material easy. You get access to the lively Beer Scholar community space for enrolled students and you can attend my weekly live beer style tastings and Q&As, which are insanely valuable for leveling up your tasting and descriptive skills. I literally give my students a "Become a Certified Cicerone® or Your Money Back" guarantee. That's how good the program is. My course has helped thousands of people pass the CC exam since 2014, when I released the first version.

The majority of the ~4,600 Certified Cicerones® used Beer Scholar to help them pass.

Before you turn your goal of passing the CC exam into a big difficult situation, I urge you to save yourself loads of time and effort. This free workshop I put together for you – How to crush the Certified Cicerone® exam without wasting a minute of study time – will get you started on the right path! Also, snag my Free Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Cicerone® Exam.  

Now, let's look at some other study resources that are key to beating the second level of the Cicerone® program, Certified Cicerone®. The CC exam is a seriously difficult exam with an online written and an in-person tasting portion. About 2 in 3 people fail the exam...that's worse than the CA State Bar Exam. I recommend that you read and study all of these resources if you're not in my course (and some of them you need either way!).  

Key Resources for prepping for the CC exam

First, grab the CC syllabus so you know what to pay attention to while you're doing your reading. I recommend you check back with the syllabus often, otherwise you risk missing important knowledge areas or going off the rails and studying stuff you don't need to know.

Key resources for multiple sections of the exam:

Tasting Beer 2nd edition, by Randy Mosher. This is the quintessential guide to all of the Cicerone program exams. Know this book backwards and forwards.

The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver. This is a thick encyclopeadic tome in which you can look up anything you have a questions about. It is not a book that you'll open up and read cover to cover. Luckily, most entries from it are available for free online here!

Key resources for the "Keeping & Serving Beer" section of the exam:

Draught Beer Quality Manual, Brewer's Association. This is a critical manual containing nearly all the information you need to crush exam questions about glassware cleaning, pouring beer, and draft system design, management, and cleaning. 

Of course, the CCP recommends their "Road to Cicerone" material for all this stuff, but for an extra $100 you can enroll in my MUCH more comprehensive Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone Exam.  

Key resources for the "Beer Styles" section of the exam:

The 2021 BJCP Style Guidelines, You're going to memorize and internalize a lot of the BJCP Style Guidelines. Get a BJCP app on your phone, too, so you can peek at them when you're out having a beer! Take pride in your beer geekery, every time you have a beer it's an opportunity to learn.

If you really enjoy reading about beer styles and learning their history, check out Jeff Alworth's excellent book, The Beer Bible 2nd edition. There's a section on just about every major beer style out there, with an additional page or two about one of the most classic brewers of that style. Jeff has been all over the world and has visited ALL these places and interviewed their brewers and owners!

Key resources for the "Beer Flavors & Evaluations" section of the exam:

The Aroxa website & flavor cards. Aroxa makes "flavor kits" for beer, which contain small capsules full of compounds that you can put in beer to learn how various aromas and off-flavors smell and taste. They make the off-flavor kits that the Cicerone® Program sells. Folks who work on brewery tasting panels or do regular sensory analysis work of any sort use Aroxa product to learn to taste and to dial in their sensory analysis abilities. In general, their stuff is expensive, so maybe not the best option for those who are bankrolling their own exam prep.

My favorite alternative of flavor tasting kits are made by Siebel. They're a solid deal and Beer Scholar students get 15% off Siebel Off Flavor Tasting kits on top of that. I have a whole lesson in the program about how to make your own off flavors and which of the Siebel kits are best. 

Key resources for the "Beer Ingredients & the Brewing Process" section of the exam:

How to Brew, by John Palmer. This book is exactly what it sounds like, a treatise on homebrewing that goes from simple beginner brewing methods to advanced techniques. It digs into beer ingredients, styles, and of flavors, too. You’ll see there’s a free version of it available online, but that one is wildly out of date. Do yourself a favor and purchase the latest up to date version.

Key resources for the "Beer & Food Pairing" section of the exam: 

The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, by Garrett Oliver. After many years, The Brewmaster's Table remains the standard beer and food pairing manual. I love recommending it because it also teach loads about beer styles. After all, how can you pair effectively if you don't know your styles? 

Additional resources I recommend: 

I post lots of great educational material on the Beer Scholar YouTube channel. I’ve been focusing more and more on video and podcasts over the years, so check the out.

My Beer Scholar facebook page contains tons of links to great beer readings and study material. There are years of great posts there. I’ve been off and on with that page over the years, but it's a solid resources with 10,0000 followers and no clickbait junk.

The CCP/Aroxa Cert Cicerone off flavor tasting kits — it is absolutely key that you do at least one off flavor tasting prior to the Cert Cicerone exam. Doing several is ideal. Many of the >60% who fail the CC Exam flop on the tasting exam. Don't be one of them! 

If you study all the material above you'll be in pretty good shape, however, there are many great beer books and podcasts out there you can add to your reading list. Go with whatever interests you. Consider checking out several of these to tie together the other material:

Love sour beer? Check out Jeff Sparrow's 2005 work Wild Brews or Michael Tonsmeire's 2014 American Sour Beer.

Love farmhouse or Belgian styles? Get your hands on the fantastic books Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus and Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski. If you want to learn about farmhouse ales being brewed in the Norwegian hinterlands and other remote places, get Historical Brewing Techniques by Lars Marius Garshol.

If you're a homebrewer and want to take your brewing to the next level, pick up the brewing elements series – Malt, Hops, and Yeast (FYI the Water book is very advanced and difficult, you definitely don't need it for the CC level!). Each of these books take you on a very deep dive into the science of that ingredient.

Here are a few podcasts I like:

1) The False Bottomed Girls – Master Cicerone® Jen Blair and Advanced Cicerone® Rachael Hudson talk about all kinds of beer and Cicerone-y related topics!

2) The Beer Enthusiasts – my biz partner who teaches the Beer Scholar Advanced Cicerone® Coaching Program, AC Scott Fielder, and our buddy AC Chris Crowe break down beers, come up with loads of amazing descriptive terms, and go deep on food pairings. 

3) Em Sauter's Pints & Panels – AC Em Sauter is an amazing cartoonist with big beer smarts. Some of her content is silly and fun, but a lot of it is super insightful and geared to learning things you need to know for the Cicerone exams.

4) Sense of Beer Style – An excellent podcast about the many beer styles out there, hosted by AC Julia Hertz and AC Jeremy Storton. Julia is a beer world legend, she has held just about every important position in the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association and continues to be a driving force in the scene.

And there you have it! Good luck and please feel free to list any other CC exam resources you love in the comments!

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