Why Education Matters
Written by: Sean Nordquist (Trades and Manufacturing Coordinator for ICCE)
In July, I wrote about education in the beer industry. I spoke in general terms about product knowledge, proper serving techniques, and so on. This kind of training is what separates the standard bartender or server from the ones that bring value to a business. Being able to have a conversation with the person who is pouring my beer about what is going to make my experience better can make the difference between whether or not I have a second drink, or if I decide that I am not coming back.
Anyone who has tended bar know that much of the job is simply about attitude and demeanor. There is no set formula, but patrons respond to personality nearly as much as they do the quality of service. You may be able to pour a great drink, but if you are dull or offensive, the chances of a good tip diminish greatly. The same is true in reverse. The greatest personality in the world can’t make up for a badly poured drink, or a lack of knowledge and understanding about what is being served.
So what is a friendly, competent, but un-knowledgeable beer pourer to do? On-the-job training is probably the most common way people learn about their job. Veteran bartenders train the new ones, servers train their new hires, and so on. Every establishment has their own quirks and ways of doing things, but the lack of a uniform understanding of the proper way to serve, store, and talk about beer is obvious.
In the wine world, the word “sommelier” designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. At one time, some beer servers adopted the title “beer sommelier” to tie into the credibility of the wine world. With the beer industry in the middle of a Renaissance, a designation has emerged as the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service.
“The word Cicerone (sis-uh-rohn) designates hospitality professionals with proven experience in selecting, acquiring, and serving today’s wide range of beers. To claim the title of Cicerone, one must earn the trademarked title of Certified Cicerone® or hold higher certification as Advanced Cicerone™ or Master Cicerone®. Those with a basic level of expertise gain recognition by earning the first-level title Certified Beer Server.” – from the Cicerone.org website
The Cicerone Certification Program provides industry professionals, business owners, and consumers an assurance that prospective beer servers are well trained and knowledgeable in the subject of beer.
The different levels of expertise offered by the CCP range from the Certified Beer Server to the Master Cicerone®. These certifications all require a passing grade on an exam. The exams are challenging, and are increasingly more in-depth and intensive at the higher levels. In most cases, prospective Cicerone candidates study extensively and attend some kind of training course to prepare for the exams.
I am thrilled to be able to bring this type of training to my work at Hillsborough Community College and the Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education.