Did you know you could make a career out of drinking beer? Can you imagine the look on a parent’s face when they asked their child, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
And they said, “Eh, I think I’m going to drink beer all day and talk about it to people.”
There are many careers out there that many of us aren’t aware of. Once you understand that there is not always a clear cut career path to doing what you love, the sooner you will realize that sometimes you have to blaze your own path. As far as knowing everything about beer goes though, there is a clear cut path. It’s called the Cicerone Certification Program.
There are four levels of the program: Level 1 -Certified Beer Server, Level 2 -Certified Cicerone, Level 3 -Advanced Cicerone and finally Level 4 -Master Cicerone.
There are almost 67,000 people who have been through Level 1 training called—Certified Beer Server. To get this designation you have to take a 60 question closed-book test and pass with at least a 75%. Questions would include things about: proper storage, styles of beer and knowledge about the Cicerone program in general.
There are roughly 2000 people who have been through level 2 training or are called Certified Cicerones, which can take up to a year to complete. But when we look at Levels 3 and 4, the numbers drop off significantly.
There have been 13 people who have been through Level 3 Advanced Cicerone training and only 11 people worldwide who can call themselves a Master Cicerone.
Mirella Amato was the first person in the world to become a Master Cicerone outside of the United States. She has created a really cool business called Beerology where she does tastings and food pairing workshops centered around beer.
Amato also has written a book called Beerology-All You Need To Know To Enjoy Beer and has been teaching all-things-beer to students since 2007. She’s also been a judge at major beer festivals and beer tastings all over the world.
I had the chance to ask Ms. Amato a few questions regarding her business and the Cicerone Program:
What made you decide to pursue a Cicerone designation in the first place?
“My whole career is based around me learning as much as I can about beer and sharing what I’ve learned with others. By 2010, I had been working as a beer specialist for a number of years – doing sommelier-type work and doing public workshops to promote beer appreciation – and wanted to acquire some sort of credential so that my students and customers would trust my level of expertise. This led me to my Certified Cicerone certification. The Master Cicerone exam was more of a personal challenge; I really enjoy learning and found this to be a great way to structure my learning and work towards a tangible goal. It’s a 14 hour exam, so it requires a lot of dedicated study.”
When did you realize you were going to start your own business and incorporate beer in that business?
“I’ve always worked for myself, so the decision for me wasn’t so much about owning my own business as it was finding the right business. Freelancing is a combination of passion, intuition and hard work. I had many passions and was exploring a number of them in the year before I founded Beerology.
The reason I landed on beer is that there was a real need – that’s the intuition piece. At that time – 2006 – craft beer was finally gaining traction and, as it did, an increasing number of people were looking for information and guidance. There were people making beer, but there were very few people in a ‘beer sommelier’ type role. Because this was an emerging field, though, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. It was quite a challenge!”
Do you have any inspiring thoughts you may have about people saying, “Your idea is nuts. Just forget about it.”
“There’s always someone who will tell you you’re nuts. They may be wrong, or they may be right – only you know for sure. Occasionally take a step back, look at the work you’re doing, and ask yourself:
1) Are you passionate about it?
2) Is it filling a real need?
3) Are you willing to work hard?
If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes,’ then you’re on the right track!”
Mirella Amato is one of less than a dozen people in the world who has blazed her own way in a career field that is as unclear as a pint of stout. She should be an inspiration to us all.
Please feel free to visit Mirella’s website. And if you really want to know how to taste a beer, click here and let her explain how.