Do you have what it takes to become a Cicerone? Our Global Head of the Passion for Beer program Charles Nouwen gives you the inside story on how he earned the prestigious designation.
The Cicerone Program is the pinnacle of beer expertise. We're proud to have Max Bakker and Mirella Amato as Master Cicerones (the highest level of beer expert) working alongside us.
Even more impressive? There are just 15 Master Cicerones in the world! The program is all about the education of beer professionals. It starts with the brewing process and ingredients, plus pouring the perfect beer, then right through to expert tasting and being able to identify a range of flavors from just one sip. There are four levels of certification, which increasingly build your beer expertise to combine outstanding tasting abilities with an encyclopedic knowledge of commercial beers.
So what does it take to earn this prestigious designation?
We asked Charles Nouwen, our Global Director of Product Exploration & Development and a Certified Cicerone, for the inside story.
Is the Cicerone program as tough as they say?
It's very demanding. The scope is huge and the depth is undefined…which I would translate as infinite. The more I studied and learned, the more I realized how much more I could study. The steps between the four levels of certification are very serious and there's no half way in. It's a true commitment.
How much did you have to study?
It took me nights and weekends for a long time and I ended up studying in the most unexpected places, using my flashcards, my phone, reading personal summaries and books…and of course tasting quite a few beers. At 40 years old I don't have the same memory as I had at university so it's definitely a special challenge I put on myself.
How did it feel when you got your certification?
Earning Cicerone Certification was a huge reward for me. I've been combining my work with my hobby and passion over my last 16 years at AB InBev, through education programs, zythology academy, and all forms of spreading a “We Love Beer” culture. Having this certification on top of that gives me credibility both within and outside our company.
Why be a Cicerone at AB InBev?
It gives me confidence and definitely a ton of extra knowledge to complement my experience and brewmaster science education. It combines more of the art with the science.
As the company wants to talk more about beer and beer truth, having more educated people and people willing to spread the “gospel” is very important. It's about storytelling on strong foundations, talking about ingredients, process, history, styles, anecdotes, consumer experience, taste, glassware… a true 360° perspective centered around consumers. Having external certification by a separate, independent institute gives the company overall an undeniable authority in beer expertise.
Any unexpected benefits from your Cicerone experience?
It motivated me to restart homebrewing, which I had stopped 10 years ago. I'm now in line to pass level three..fingers crossed.
Any advice for colleagues thinking of pursuing Cicerone certification?
There's no trick to succeeding. However, as our community of Cicerones grows in the company, there are so many people who can help you. This is also true for any Cicerones in the world, as we're all connected by our passion.