There are dozens of certifications that a beer server, brewer, home brewer or general beer geek can obtain to show his knowledge of the world of beer.  Below are a summary of the most highly regarded certifications that can be achieved in addition to a description of who the certification is designed for, how difficult it is and how useful the certification is in the real world or drinking, brewing and serving beer.

Cicerone Certified Beer Server

Difficulty: 4 out of 10 Pints

Website: Certified Beer Server

Designed for: Beer Servers

Description:  Cicerone is a certification program that has three distinct levels; Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone.  The first level, Certified Beer Server (CBS), is a certification showing that you understand the basics of the brewing process, general knowledge of multiple beer styles and proper techniques for serving beer.  The CBS certification is wonderful for beer servers who have multiple taps in their facility and occasionally may need to trouble shoot these systems.  The general beer style questions are fairly generic and will provide the server with the most basic understanding of a variety of styles.  Flavor flaws are discussed but not elaborated on.  This test is completely online and does not include any tasting portion.  You can get more information on the Cicerone website located HERE or attend an Educate.Beer training courses by visiting our TRAINING PAGE to get a schedule of classes!


Certified Cicerone

Difficulty: 6 out of 10 Pints

Website: Certified Cicerone

Designed for: Bar and Restaurant Owners, Beer “Sommelier”

Description:  The second level of the Cicerone certification program is the Certified Cicerone.  This test builds upon the information that was addressed in the Certified Beer Server exam.  Unlike the CBS exam, the Certified Cicerone exam includes a tasting portion of the exam that must be taken in person.  Additionally, beer food pairings are addressed more specifically than in the CBS exam.  Comprehensive understanding of all beer styles is required for the successful completion of the Certified Cicerone exam.  Typically a restaurant or gastropub will have one Certified Cicerone who will direct the remainder of the staff for beer food pairings, identification of flawed beer and general beer service items.  Additional information can be found on the Cicerone website located HERE.  This test can be financially burdensome, rather than sign up for a test that you are not equipped for, join in an Educate.Beer training program to get a complete understanding of the Certified Cicerone level on our TRAINING PAGE.


Master Cicerone

Difficulty: 10 out of 10 Pints

Website: Master Cicerone

Designed for: Master Brewers, Restaurant Executives

Description:  The third level of the Cicerone certification program is the Master Cicerone.  Let’s be serious, as of the writing of this article, there are a grand total of 9 Master Cicerones around the world.  This doesn’t mean that you aren’t qualified or determined enough to obtain this elite status of the craft beer world, but it means that you would have already passed both the Certified Beer Server and Certified Cicerone levels prior to even being able to sit for the exam.  This exam includes in-depth knowledge of everything relating to beer from grain to glass.  Candidates are expected to understand how to develop a beer recipe from scratch in addition to understanding and being able to discuss the history, characteristics and optimum food pairings for hundreds of different styles of beer.  If you choose to pursue this level of mastery, Educate.Beer commends you but this level of training is beyond the scope of our programs.


Beer Judge Certification Program

Difficulty: 7  out of 10 Pints (For Recognized Rank)

Website: Beer Judge Certification Program

Designed for: Homebrewers, Brewers, and Future Beer Judges

Description:  The Beer Judge Certification Program was founded in 1985 with three core goals:

  • Encourage knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the world’s most diverse beer, mead and cider styles;
  • Promote, recognize and advance beer, mead and cider tasting, evaluation and communication skills; and,
  • Develop standardized tools, methods and processes for the structured evaluation, ranking and feedback of beer, mead and cider.

The BJCP is responsible for the Style Guidelines, a complete package describing the attributes, characteristics, ingredients, processes and history of most commercially available beer styles.  The Style Guidelines are not a ranking of the best beers in the world, rather they are a way to subjectively grade each and every beer that is passed before you against a standard expectation of that beer.  The first step to becoming a BJCP judge is to download either the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines and get reading!  In order to be prepared to pass the tests associated with the Beer Judge Certification Program, you need to be intimately familiar with these guidelines.

The BJCP requires that any hopeful beer judge take the Entrance Exam.  The Entrance Exam is a web-based exam that includes questions on all aspects of the style guidelines.  This 200 question timed exam must be completed in 60 minutes, significantly limiting the time available to look up answers in tables, charts or the guidelines.  The only way to truly pass this exam is to study and memorize the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines.  You can sign up to take this exam with a 3 for 2 pricing scheme.  Educate.Beer recommends this for most people as the test can be difficult if you are not familiar with the style of questions that you will be asked.  Passing the Entrance Exam allows you to call yourself a BJCP Provisional Judge, this certification expires after 12 months.

Once the BJCP Entrance Exam is passed you have 12 months to take the Tasting Exam to obtain an official ranking through BJCP.  The rankings for the BJCP are outlined extensively on their website but include (in increasing order):

  • Recognized
  • Certified
  • National
  • Master
  • Grand Master
  • Grand Master +

The score that you receive on the Tasting Exam will contribute towards the ranking that you will first be given in the program up to the level of Certified.  The tasting exam includes the formal tasting and judging, independently and without any reference materials, of six (6) individual beers.  Some of these beers may be spiked with off flavors while some are excellent examples of beers that are mis-categorized.  The test is designed to test not only the ability of the Beer Judge to know and understand the individual styles as referenced in the Style Guidelines, it is intended to test the sensory and communication skills of the judge.  In addition to your score on the tasting exam, you must have a prerequisite amount of judging points in order to be able to advance to different ranks.  At this point, you will be able to advance to the rank of Certified without any additional testing provided you meet the requirements for judging points and continued participation in judging events.

If you wish to extend your rank even higher (National, Master or Grand Master) you will be required to participate in a second test.  This test is a written test and includes essay questions on beer styles, recipe formulation, history and the brewing process.  Obtaining a rank of National or higher is quite difficult and requires significant investment in time to achieve but it is possible through a rigorous training program.

Educate.Beer has developed structured training classes specifically to achieve the rank of at least Recognized with a high likelihood of achieving a score in excess of the 80% required for sitting for the higher level certifications.  This training class is intense and requires several hours of outside of classroom reading and studying but with the proper investment in time obtaining any rank is achievable.


Master Brewers Association of America Associate Beer Steward

Difficulty: 4 out of 10 Pints

Website:  Associate Beer Steward

Designed for: Bar and Restaurant Servers, Beer Drinkers

Description:  The Master Brewers Association of America (MBAA) Associate Beer Steward is the first of three levels that are offered for individuals involved in the craft beer industry.  The Associate Beer Steward covers the basics of the history of beer, the brewing process, beer styles, beer freshness and the serving of beer.  The interesting part of the MBAA certifications is that they have their own beer styles and guidelines which differ from other commonly used styles.  The MBAA website includes a handbook that is to be used during studying for the exam covering all of the information outlined on the test.

The MBAA Associate Beer Steward is not a difficult exam to pass if you are properly trained on beer and the specific styles that they cover in depth.  Educate.Beer has developed a course specifically for passing the Associate Beer Server certification level that includes graphical handouts for the test taker to use in their preparation in addition to in depth discussion of the procedures for proper beer service.


Master Brewers Association of America Beer Steward

Difficult: 6 out of 10 Pints

Website: Beer Steward

Designed for: Bar and Restaurant Owners, Beer Sommeliers

Description:  The MBAA Beer Steward is the second level offered by the MBAA for servers of craft beer.  This certification expands upon the information that was tested during the Associate Beer Steward certification by including beer/food pairings, ingredients used in beer, draught beer, evaluating beer flavors, beer and health, and beer and regulations.  These expanded topics are the equivalent of the Certified Cicerone level of certification.

Educate.Beer has established a course that will prepare servers or beer drinkers alike for passing either the Certified Cicerone or MBAA Beer Steward test.  With the similarities in information that is presented, one training class can be used for any test that is requested with only some limited, specific information being enhanced for the specific certification that you are looking for.


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