Master Cicerone Study Hack: Docendo Discimus

I’ve been casually teaching myself and learning about beer for several years now.  I attempted to study (and failed) two or three times before successfully sitting down standing up for a study session.  The key to success?  I installed a whiteboard and decided to teach others.  By teaching, I learn.


I’m A Visual Learner

     Call it a hang-up from my early days in biz school, everything can be turned into a quasi-science graph or visualization tool.  If there are imperfections it doesn’t really matter because these serve the purpose of explaining the bigger picture.  Visualization tools also have a tendency to naturally bring forth any key terms you might want to flashcard for that section of the test.

Why I’m Undertaking The Master Cicerone Exam

Being a bearded beer nerd with barley tattooed on my arm isn’t enough, apparently.  I love beer so much that I want to put myself through an insanely grueling 9 months involving non-stop work and study.  This is all on top of having a full time job and a draft beer line cleaning company to run.  My plan is to document the process on DivineBrew, twitter and youtube.  Sleep?  When I’m dead.  Friends?  I’ll be lucky to keep the few that I have before it’s over.  Health?  I’ll concern myself with those matters only if I survive the test.  Sanity?  Clearly I don’t have any to begin with.  The last article I wrote detailed the postponement of my Certified Cicerone® exam.  Turns out I passed, a while ago.

What is a Master Cicerone?

     A Master Cicerone® is an individual that maintains an encyclopedia-like knowledge of beer.  You have to be incredibly well versed in a broad range of topics including but not limited to draft beer systems, beer styles and history, sensory analysis, beer and food pairing, methods of serving beer, regulatory environment of beer, brewing beer, etc.  Once somebody has become a Master Cicerone® their role shifts and they become an ambassador for good beer.  Their knowledge enables them to speak on a wide range of topics and guide other professionals in the beer industry.


Still not a Cicerone

Damn.  That $*!# is depressing, right?  Well… not quite, allow me to explain.  I was studying for my CIcerone exam and working my job at Tryst until my girlfriend forced me to apply for a new job.  She wanted me to apply for a new job to get more in tune with a ‘real deal’ kitchen.  We knew we already loved everything from Black Restaurant Group so I sent an e-mail to an anonymous line with 0 expectations.  They ended up hiring me after a grueling 4-part interview process, these guys don’t mess around.  I can now say that I opened a restaurant with the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with in my entire life, got paid for my draft beer cleaning business and generally learned a lot about life.  Still not a cicerone but that’s ok.  I’ve been so busy living in the moment and embracing every kernel of knowledge as it strikes me that I haven’t even had time to take a test.  Watch out world, I’m gunning straight for the master.

Opening a Restaurant

     I can’t even begin to explain the process of opening a restaurant.  It’s f*&$ed up.  The only saving grace?  You’re constantly in situation room style meetings with other people who care just as much as you do.  That’s the beauty, when you open a new restaurant you’re only in the company of people who love the business.  If you’re not, I’d reconsider opening a restaurant.  It also means you have to put the entirety of your life on hold, hence why I did not sit for my originally scheduled cicerone exam on December 16th Continued

Homebrewing, BJCP Result & Belgian Style Beer at Tryst

This is my first time back in the saddle after a several months long writing hiatus here at DivineBrew.  Fear not, I’m still alive, or something life-like at the very least (I’m not a full-fledged bar vampire just yet).  To say I’ve been super busy sounds like an excuse so let’s skip that and get right to the latest.  I studied for, and passed, my BJCP exam.  I’ve judged three competitions and plan to judge several more in the near future.  The Belgian beer program at Tryst appears to be going well so far.  Beer sales are up which means I haven’t totally F*&%ed up yet. did a write up here which outlines a lot of the new changes.  We have an awesome event happening soon to celebrate Belgian culture and our appreciation for their delicious beer making techniques.  Lastly, and most importantly for my psyche, I’m homebrewing again.  I hadn’t seriously homebrewed in at least a year and probably more than that.  I almost forgot how much homebrew improves the quality of life.

The First Shameless Plug in a While

     On July 19 @ 7PM all the drafts at Tryst will convert to limited release Belgian style beers from American brewers.  The lineup is F&*$ing ridiculous.  Probably the only time you’ll ever see these beers together in one location.  The final set will include the following: Jolly Pumpkin IO Saison, EPIC Brainless IPA, New Belgium Paardebloem, Allagash Confluence, Ommegang Gnomegang and Goose Island Sofie Paradisi.  And if that ain’t enough for ya, all draft and bottle beer will be 33% off that night only.  Yeah, I just did that. Continued

Belgian Beer Series Part 4: Beer Menu Integration

I developed a new categorization system for Belgian style beers. I’m following up with a four-part series to explain it in more depth. For previous articles in this four part series… one, two, three

What follows is a brief introduction of the Belgian style beers we’ll carry on the menu at Tryst Coffeehouse Bar & Lounge.  Each beer will represent a portion of the hierarchal system I developed.  Before we get into the beers, there is one more thing worth mentioning…

Friday Nights Just Got Awesome(r)

     Starting on March 1st we’ll be featuring all of the Belgian beers listed below for 33.33% off every Friday night from 7pm to close. It certainly won’t be the same $5 rail drinks Adams Morgan is known for, but it’ll be the best affordable luxury on the 18th Street strip.


Belgian Beer Series Part 3: Belgian Style Café Beer

I developed a new categorization system for Belgian style beers. I’m following up with a four-part series to explain it in more depth. For previous articles in this four part series… one, two

In the previous section we talked about Belgian strong ale and some of the unique differences amongst those various sub-categories.  Now we turn our attention to a category that I’ve identified as Belgian café beer.


Belgian Style Café Beer

     Belgian cafés are famous the world over for their unique atmosphere and wonderful cuisine.  Not all Belgian beers are of great alcoholic strength.  These may sometimes become known as ‘food beers’ for their ease of pairing and drinkability.  From a historical perspective, many of the beers that fall into this category were drunk amongst ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’.

Belgian Sour Beer

     Sour is a term that carries some limitations.  It leads the guest to believe something may taste one very specific way.  In reality, beers that are labeled as “sour” are often one-of-a-kind.  Some of these “sour” beers are initially fermented with brewer’s yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) but then wild microbes and wild yeast (brettanomyces) infect the beer.  The result is often a full-bodied, full-flavored unique beer.  Ale is always beer, but a beer does not have to be an ale. Continued