Cicerone: An expert beer server, the equivalent of a wine sommelier. Adapted from an earlier usage, first documented in 1726, that meant a guide to museums and other popular sites in Italy. From Latin Cicero, the name of the great Roman orator, “perhaps in reference to the loquacity of the guides” (Online Etymology Dictionary). The English pronunciation is SIS-uh-roan.
From a July 2010 article in 7x7, a San Francisco magazine:
A grimy dive is certainly not the domain of a cicerone, the term for a certified beer sommelier—the latest hip job in the drink world. … Certified cicerones must pass an exam on beer chemistry, history and culture. – “The Cicerone (Basically a Beer Sommelier) Is the Drink World’s New Hip Job”
The basically-a-beer-sommelier definition of cicerone was introduced by Ray Daniels, a Chicago beer expert and who presides over Cicerone.org. In 2007 Daniels started a beer training program and applied for trademark protection of Cicerone; in February of this year his credentialing program issued its 10,000th Certified Beer Server certificate. Cicerone.org also offers advanced credentials: According to Mark Garrison, who wrote about cicerones for Slate.com in December 2011, fewer than half of would-be Certified Cicerones pass the test. To date, only three people have qualified to become Master Cicerones:
The capitalized names make it all sound awfully precious and formal, but Daniels says that’s not what he’s going for. “The intent of this program is to improve the quality of beer available to consumers in every respect, without changing the accessibility of it,” he explains. “We want Cicerones to be guides, not gods.”
You can test your own beer savvy with eight sample questions from the basic exam for Certified Beer Server.
Bonus word of the week: paddle, a serving tray with indentations for beer samples.
Eight-glass beer paddle with eight six-ounce glasses, $49.95 at VinoBrew. “Not to be confused with a cricket paddle,” the copy says.*
*I believe they mean “cricket bat.”