Albany native Matt Perazzelli is one of just 139 advanced cicerones in the world. So how does the cousin to the wine sommelier compare? We asked the Boston Beer Company product educator to explain.
What is the Cicerone Certification Program all about?
There are several components to the whole cicerone program: There’s keeping and serving beer, there’s beer styles, there’s beer flavor and evaluation, there’s beer ingredients and brewing, and then the last one is pairing beer with food. Beer is a fantastic counterpart to food and depending on what you like to eat, I can find a beer—I can almost guarantee—to pair with that.
Are there different levels of cicerones?
There are four levels to it. Level one is Certified Beer Server. That requires a 60-question, multiple-choice exam. Level two is an in-person exam. It’s more in-depth—there’s tasting required and you have to do a lot of style identification and talk about the best ways to keep and serve beer. If you pass that exam, you can refer to yourself as a Certified Cicerone. The third level is more intense. The exam is a full day. Start to finish was like 8am–6pm. There are various tasting flights where you have to identify styles. You have to pick apart beers that are acceptable to serve to a customer, and ones that are not. There’s also an essay component. And that’s Advanced Cicerone. Then the last one is Master Cicerone. I have not dived into that one yet.
But have you considered it?
It’s always something I think about. Last I checked, there are, I think, 13 Master Cicerones in the world. It’s pretty rigorous: It’s a two-day exam. [Author’s note: The number is now up to 19.]
Why do you think the cicerone program is important?
Because of the sheer variety and number of beers there are out there as a consumer—it’s just a beautiful thing to have all those different choices. And as a retailer, it’s a challenge. Even as a consumer, I should say, it’s a challenge, because you’re staring at a wall of beer with all these different options, and it can be hard to navigate. That’s one of the things the cicerone organization tries to tackle: How do we give people a little more knowledge? Because everyone’s really hungry for it.