Sommeliers are your go-to professionals in the wine world. They are your experts when you want a good wine recommendation or to learn more about wine tasting, pairing and serving. With education and experience behind them, they can be a great reference when you’re starting your wine journey or want to dig deeper into your wine knowledge.


Are there are other types of Sommeliers?

Yes! There are Olive Oil Sommeliers, Water Sommeliers, Sake Sommeliers, and Tea Sommeliers, but here we are going to concentrate on just one right now — Beer Sommeliers, also known as Cicerones.

In March 2016, the creators of JustWine launched another amazing site called JUSTBEER. It’s very similar to JustWine, but it’s for beer nerds! In preparation for the launch, the team at JustWine participated in a bunch of beer tastings because research is very important!


Cicerone: The Beer Sommelier

We met with Rob Swiderski, a Certified Cicerone to chat about all things beer and what being a beer sommelier — aka Cicerone — was all about. He explained that basically a Cicerone is the Beer World’s equivalent to a Wine Sommelier.

The word Cicerone is an old English word for a guide on tours, in museums, galleries, archaeological sites or any form of educational guiding. It is a choice word because it differentiates beer experts from the term Beer Sommelier (which many Cicerones are not all that fond of) and associates them more with the guidance they provide into the world of beer. Like in the wine industry, you cannot just decide you love beer, take a beer tasting workshop or go to a few beer events then call yourself a Cicerone. Like wine or like anything else worthwhile, there is a certification process.

There are 4 levels of Cicerone Certification:

  1. Certified Beer Server

  2. Certified Cicerone

  3. Advanced Cicerone

  4. Master Cicerone


How Hard is it to get your Cicerone Certification?

The first level requires taking an online course and exam. The second is more rigorous. It is a 4-hour, 3 part exam, including a tasting portion which requires the identification of beer styles, flaws, and service problems. A written portion which covers knowledge about beer service, draft systems, beer styles, brewing, and pairing beer with food. Candidates must also perform a demonstration involving an aspect of beer service. After achieving Certified Cicerone status most work in the field, travel to classic beer producing areas and get experience so they can gain a more in-depth and varied knowledge of brewing, ingredients and beer and food pairing. People who become Master Cicerones must possess an encyclopedic knowledge of beer and highly refined tasting abilities. The Master Cicerone exam is a 2-day exam with written, oral and tasting components.

Video: Train Your Palate with A Certified Cicerone


A Little Bit About Rob the Cicerone!

Rob got his start as a Cicerone when he was chosen from all the owners of CRAFT Beer Market (with four locations across Canada) to take the course. Little did he know that lucky lottery would change his life. It led him to become a member of the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers which eventually led him to become a Certified Beer Judge from the Beer Judging Certification Program. An amazing opportunity which has enabled him to travel all over Canada. According to Rob to be a great Cicerone you need: “A passion for beer and brewing, commitment, perseverance, openness to being taught, inquisitiveness, and not be afraid to work hard.”

Video: Caskapalooza


The First Canadian Female Certified Cicerone, Mirella Amato

One of the first women in Canada to become a certified Cicerone was Mirella Amato, author of the book Beerology: Everything You Need To Know To Enjoy Beer… Even More. She is also the first non-American to become a Master Cicerone. Mirella guides beer tastings around the world and is also a Certified Beer Judge. She views her role as Cicerone similar to that of a teacher. She explains:

“My goal with Beerology is not to make beer recommendations based on my taste, but rather to share the tools necessary for each participant to zero in on their own personal favourites. I aim to get people excited about beer and point them in the right direction so that they can confidently continue exploring on their own. I also like to provide the context for each beer, including historical tidbits as well as anecdotes on brands, breweries and styles.”


Here are some tips from Cicerone Rob Swiderski about finding a beer style:

“A couple of things I always try to imprint on people when I talk about craft beer:

  1. Don’t talk badly about a beer – it might not be right for you, but someone else might love it.
  2. If someone offers you a beer and it’s not really what you would drink, accept it and appreciate the fact that it was that beverage that brought you and that person (the one that offered it to you) an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company.
  3. Don’t be a beer snob – don’t snub someone because of their beer style preference or lack of knowledge around beer take it as an opportunity to teach them something new.”

Another misconception Rob said should be put to rest once and for all is: “Wine is not more ‘classy’ than beer. Minutes, hours, months and sometimes years of dedication and fine tuning are poured into the creation of both of these wonderful liquids, and craft beer should be treated the same way as wine—correct glassware, serving temperature, tasting technique, pairings.”


Our approach with wine at JustWine and our approach to beer on JustBeer are similar. Beer and wine should be fun and friendly, and it should connect people. Cheers!


Start your journey to become a Sommelier or Cicerone. Learn more about wine and beer right here!