How to score big on the Cicerone® exam's demonstration component

cert cicerone exam advice Mar 22, 2024

The Certified Cicerone® tasting exam has a demonstration portion where you'll be asked to show off a beer skill in front of a camera. Here are some important things to know about the demonstration portion:

  • It will concern material in the "Keeping and Serving" portion of the CC syllabus.
  • You'll have 3 minutes and you will be recorded on video. 
  • The demonstration counts for 4% of your total score on the CC exam – note this is counted as part of your written CC exam score.

So then, what are they going to ask you? Here's what we know:

  1. It'll be Keeping and Serving related.
  2. It is very likely to involve a small item you can handle in front of a camera set up on a table.  
  3. It has to be easy to test at any exam location. 
  4. Since the first Certified Cicerone® exam in 2008, they have ALWAYS asked for the same demonstration from every test taker! 
  5. One of these days, some group will be stunned when the program, for the first time ever, asks them to demonstrate something different! P.S. if that ever happens please email me immediately at [email protected] to let me know! 

I've been training people to beat the Cicerone® exams for over a decade and until now, I've never just said plainly what the demonstration question is. The program asks test takers not to tell what's on the test, which is completely understandable, but since they've asked the same question for so long and it hasn't been a secret in the beer community for about a decade, I'm comfortable being straight with you about it. The fact is that the Cicerone Certification Program WANTS you to learn this stuff and PASS the exam. The CC exam pass rate is still only 40%. That is ridiculous. I'm practically begging you to enroll in my Beer Scholar course if you want to guarantee you'll pass. I hear you, it's expensive. You know what's actually expensive and time consuming? Taking the exam two (or more) times. Dragging it out or giving up instead of passing on your first try. Traveling for multiple tasting exams. Having a crappier career because you didn't make moves. Those things are expensive. Anyway, here's the moment you've been waiting for: 

You're 99% likely to be asked to demonstrate how to clean a beer faucet. 

Why? Draft system cleaning is a CRITICAL skill for anyone who works in a taproom  Dirty faucets and other draft system components are among the main reasons we all get so much crappy beer on draft. They really want you to know how to do this stuff. OK, cool. So, how should you do your demonstration? I'm glad you asked. Who better to consult than the Master Cicerone who helped write the Brewer's Association's Draught Beer Quality Manual – MC Neil Witte. 

You only have 3 minutes, so this video below is a bit too long to just copy, but if you learn this and condense it, you'll do great. I'd add a few things about cleaning draft systems more broadly, to demonstrate more knowledge. That worked for me when I took the exam, but you'll do fine if you follow Neil's example here. 


There's another great video out there that has helped many a Certified Cicerone candidate with their demonstration. Meet Drew Larson of Leader's Beverage. He's got something to say about this, too. 


Like I mentioned, someone is going to be the one to get the big surprise some day if the Cicerone® program switches things up. What else could they potentially ask when the day comes?

  • Glass cleaning in a three bay sink: Highly unlikely. It'd be difficult to film, not all test locations have a 3 bay sink, and most host sites don't want examinees messing around with their equipment or getting behind their bar. It's not outside the realm of possibility, but highly unlikely. 
  • Opening and pouring a beer: Highly unlikely due to the cost and wastage, but not impossible. Also, this just seems a bit too easy.
  • Pouring a draft beer: Same as above, highly unlikely due to cost and wastage...also, do they want folks having a beer at the end of the exam before driving home? I doubt it. 
  • Tapping a keg: This seems much too quick and easy. It's difficult to imagine how this would end up being a 3 minute demonstration that would show them you know much of anything.   
  • Troubleshooting a draft system issue: Highly unlikely, in part due to the difficulty level of setting this up over and over for each tester. Also, this is easy stuff to ask about as a short answer question on the written exam. The Master Cicerone® exam is the only one with a demonstration/interview like this, you're not going to see this on the CC.
  • Cleaning a coupler: Yep, this is probably it. If the Cicerone Certification Program wants to mix things up, giving you a coupler and asking you to do essentially the same demonstration question is very likely how they'll do it. A less likely possibility would be to ask you to clean a FOB.

Just in case you're asked to demonstrate something you've never done before, you should have a strategy! Here it is: no matter how poorly the actual physical demonstration is going, even if you've never held that object in your hand before, just tell the camera everything you know about the topic you've been asked to demonstrate! That way, you prove you know your stuff while you're fiddling with the device and trying to take it apart or clean it or whatever! 

For instance, if you're handed a keg coupler and asked to demonstrate how to disassemble and properly clean it, even if you've never done it before you know a TON about cleaning draft systems. You'd begin by talking about how you should wear gloves and other PPE because you're working with dangerous chemicals, you'd state that draft systems should be cleaned every two weeks with a caustic to kill bacteria and wild yeast and other microbes, that all FOBs should be cleaned in-line every two weeks, that all faucets should be disassembled and cleaned, and that couplers must to be scrubbed clean with a brush and caustic every two weeks, and that once every six months all couplers should be completely disassembled and hand-detailed. You should be able to figure out how to take the coupler apart pretty easily and you should be able to name drop at least a few of the parts, like the probe, check ball, check valve, and pressure release valve. Just say what you know as you work. Approach the whole things like it's a quick verbal essay. Start from the top and talk all about it even if you're struggling with the device!

Here's another YouTube hit from Drew that you should get familiar with before your exam. He's got a whole series of these:


And there you have it! I hope to see you in my Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone® Exam (get a free study guide for it here, to get your prep going!). If you're prepping for the CC exam, it's much quicker, much easier, and MUCH more likely you'll pass if you prep with my course! I know, I know, it seems like an extra expense...but it can get a lot more expensive in time and money if you have to take the exam multiple times! The overall pass rate for the CC exam is ~40%, but for Beer Scholar students the pass rate is literally 100%. That's why I guarantee you'll become a Certified Cicerone® if you enroll, do the full program, and take the full CC exam. I'm not kidding, I actually guarantee you become a Certified Cicerone® or I'll give you you're money back!

I hope to see you in our live weekly style tastings and Q&A sessions soon!



cert cicerone exam advice