Key resources for studying for the Certified Cicerone exam

cert cicerone exam advice certified cicerone Jan 03, 2016

The Cicerone Certification Program (CCP) recently released recommended "Key Resources" you need to study to pass the exam for the Certified Cicerone (CC) exam, as well as every other level of the program (Certified Beer Server (CBS), Advanced Cicerone (AC), and Master Cicerone (MC))

Before we look at the recommended resources for the CC exam, it's worth noting that my Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Cicerone Exam follows the CCP's syllabi and summarizes all the info you need to know to pass the CC exam. My courses have helped thousands of people pass the CBS and CC exams, so seriously consider checking that out to save yourself loads of time and effort.

Now let's look at what study resources the CCP recommends for the second level of the program, Certified Cicerone. The CC exam is a seriously difficult in-person exam with written and tasting portions. Its passage rate is less than 40%, about 1 in 3. That's worse than the NY or CA State Bar Exams. Certified Cicerones are true beer experts. So, which the CCP says, "while it is not mandatory to review all of these resources in preparation for our exams, we hope candidates can utilize this list in conjunction with the syllabi to focus their studies," I would recommend that you read and study all of these resources. Besides, merely passing the test isn't the whole point, you also want to become a beer expert! 

CCP Recommended 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.

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 frankly is not a book that you'll open up and read cover to cover. 

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 know to crush any exam questions about draft systems. 

Of course, the CCP recommends their "Road to Cicerone" material, but for the price I'm going to again recommend my much less expensive & more comprehensive Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Cicerone Exam.  

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

The 2021 BJCP Style Guidelines, Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). You're going to memorize and internalize much of the BJCP Style Guidelines. Get the 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.

Brewing Classic Styles, Jamil Zainasheff. This is a homebrew recipe book, but it discusses classic brewing styles in the context of the BJCP categories. It may be slightly out of date with the new BJCP Style Guidelines, but Brewing Classic Styles will teach you about beer styles as well as brewing ingredients and techniques. This is especially recommended for anyone who homebrews. 

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 are put in beer to allow tasters to learn various aromas and off-flavors. They make the off-flavor kits that the CCP 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 very very expensive, so maybe not the best option for those who are bankrolling their own exam prep.

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 basic treatise on homebrewing from simple beginner brewing methods to more advanced techniques. It also covers ingredients, styles, and off flavors. Oh, and yes 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 updated 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 several years on the market The Brewmaster's Table remains the standard beer and food pairing manual. It will also teach you about styles, after all, how can you pair effectively if you don't know your styles? 

Additional resources I recommend: 

Heck, I’ll say it again, my Beer Scholar Study Guide for the Certified Cicerone Exam contains everything you need to know to crush the test.

My Beer Scholar facebook page contains tons of links to great beer readings and study material. Go like the page and start reading the articles I post (feel free to go through all the prior posts as well). I’ve been more and less active here over the years, but I always post good educational material, no crap or clickbait. I’ve been focusing more and more on video and podcasts, so check out the Beer Scholar YouTube channel, too.

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 & luckily there’s a new less expensive version on the market from MoreBeer/BrewEssence. Myself a couple other Advanced Cicerones are working on a video comparing the CCP-Aroxa kits with the MoreBeer-BrewEssence kits, so keep an eye on the Beer Scholar YouTube channel for that. The majority of people who fail the CC Exam die in the tasting portion. Don't be one of them! 

OK. So, if you study all the material above you'll be in good shape, however, there are soooo many great beer reads out there that you could add to your beer reading list. Go with whatever interests you. Consider checking out one of two of these to tie together some of the other material you'll be studying:

Love reading about beer styles? Check out Jeff Alworth's excellent guide, The Beer Bible 2nd edition

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 love wheat beers pick up Brewing With Wheat. If you want to learn about real 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 read through Ray Daniel's Designing Great Beers (he created the Cicerone Program) or Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing. Also, pick out a few of the brewing elements series - Malt, Hops, Yeast, and Water. Each of them take you on a very deep dive into the science of that ingredient…almost to a brutal degree!  

And let me guess, you love IPAs, right?! If so, try Brewing Eclectic IPA.

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

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