Beery Qualifications

I like learning – it is core to my being, when I am not learning I quickly get depressed. A part of learning is assessment and awards to measure achievement. I’ve always been interested in qualifications and their relative merits. Some are great, some are token, many are somewhere in between. In my time I’ve done many – from the fundamental step of getting a driving license, an early foray into the drinks industry with a “Cellar Door Sales Certificate” (wine tasting and sales course) way back in 1998 before deciding to go to university, through to a full blown BSc when I decided uni would be fun to try.

Since getting into beer I’ve started pursuing beer qualifications as well. I could be accused of “collecting” them perhaps. When I do them I write them up. Note that my focus and interest is qualifications from the service-side of the beer world, not brewing. Here are the qualifications/certificates/whathaveyou that I have done:

Beer Certificate Collection

Beer Certificate Collection

  • Personal License (APLH) [external link] (£150, no VAT)
    • A simple day course and multi-choice exam required to get your personal license to serve alcohol. This was pretty straightforward but there is a lot of information to take on board. It really gives you an appreciation for the position licensees are in with respect to responsible service of alcohol. I didn’t write it up as it is a pretty basic requirement. It cost me £150 do to my ALPH but prices vary, I did mine with a local training chap at his kitchen table.
  • Beer Academy Advanced Course: Day 1 (Foundation) & Day 2 (£150 + VAT)
    • This course is a comprehensive study of beer. Covering a lot of ground from production, to styles, to flaws and even a little beer and food matching. (I’ve yet to write up a final summary of this course, never got around to it – but the posts linked to cover the course content in detail.) My course was led by master brewer Derek Prentice, who is an absolute mine of beer knowledge. If you do the course and get Derek do make good use of your access to him.
  • CAMRA/GBBF Certificate in Bar Management (free! But hard to get into.)
    • Gained through a very intensive week-long training course held during GBBF. Stationed at a GBBF bar learning how the huge operation that is behind serving a pint at GBBF is executed. Also with practical and theory classes on cellarmanship, dispense, beer flaws and analysis, and all the boring paperwork required to run a festival. By far the most intensive training I have done with regards to beer – unsurprisingly focused on cask ale festivals, but a lot of the knowledge is transferable to other styles of events. This course is hard to get in on, you need to be referred by your local CAMRA branch and there are only about 20 spots on the course. I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity!
  • BIIAB Award in Beer & Cellar Quality (ABCQ) (£115.80 inc-VAT)
    • The UK’s only (?) official “cellarmanship” qualification. Giving pub and bar staff a solid foundation in the practicalities of keeping and serving cask and keg beer well. The catchphrase of this course is “Profit Through Quality”.
  • Certified Beer Server (US$79)
    • The base level of the Certified Cicerone scheme, you need this before you can do the Certified Cicerone exam. See below for more details. It is an online multiple-choice exam and for the price you get 2 attempts at it. I guess it is a small hurdle to cross in preparing for the Certified Cicerone. I did mine on a whim, thinking I’d do the 1st attempt to see where my weaknesses lie and then brush up. But I passed first go… like I said, “small hurdle”.

There are several other courses and awards out there that I’d like to add to the above list. Ones I particularly covet are listed below, links are to external sites:

  • Certified Cicerone® (US$345 – but diff for international exams.)
    • A US based qualification covering beer styles and service in great depth. Far more comprehensive than anything in the UK but at the same time not entirely relevant to UK beer service and equipment in some areas. (I mention this briefly in my BIIAB ABCQ write-up.) BrewDog put their staff through this qualification and it is certainly more suitable for their keg-only bar setups than typical British pubs. But beyond the technology it also gives a base level of beer knowledge that should serve you well the world over!
  • Master Cicerone® (US$795)
    • The lofty heights… there are only 9 people with this qualification in the world. BrewDog’s James Watt is one of them.
  • Beer Academy: How to Judge Beer (£130 + VAT)
    • What it says on the tin. A course tailored towards judging beer for British beer events. You need to do this course before you can qualify to take the Beer Sommelier exam.
  • Beer Academy: Beer & Food Matching (£50 + VAT)
    • Again, what it says on the tin I expect.
  • Beer Academy: Beer Sommelier (£150 + VAT)
    • The lofty heights for UK beer professionals. This is the Beer Academy’s highest award and is achieved through an interview process with practical flaw and style tasting tests too I think. You need a portfolio showing your beer experience and a base level of other qualifications in order to achieve the rank of Beer Sommelier. The most well known beer “sommALEier” is, I think, Melissa Cole – who certainly sets an example many of us look up to when it comes to promoting good beer in the UK.
  • Technical Certificate in Cellar Service Installation and Maintenance (NCCSIM) (£875 + VAT)
    • Effectively the “cellar services” qualification. The nuts and bolts (pipes and pushfits?) of building and installing cellar setups for pubs and bars. Split into 5 units at £175+VAT each. This is the qualification for true cellar tech folk I guess – and I’d like to do it so I can show that I can competently work on cellar installs and bar builds. (I believe I can already, but the qualification adds reassurance for both myself and my potential customers.)

Is there anything else worth doing that I’ve left out? Please let me know here or on twitter to @beeryvan.


4 thoughts on “Beery Qualifications

  1. Hi, I am just about to do my next set of beer exams and came across your post as I am unsure as to whether I go on and do my Advanced with the Beer Academy or whether I do the Master Beer Server with Cicerone -I just don’t want to do anything too US centric and it not be relevant to the UK – would be interested to know what you think..! Cheers Sophie

    • By “Master Beer Server” do you mean “Beer Server” – or do you mean “Master Cicerone”? :) I’m assuming the former, as I doubt you’d need to ask the question if you were doing the latter?!

      The two are very very different things and it depends on what your goals are.

      In my opinion the Beer Academy “Advanced Course” is more valuable and far more relevant in the UK than “Beer Server”.

      Do the “Beer Server” if you think doing the full Cicerone is your next step. (And if you prefer the UK Beer Sommelier direction then stick with Beer Academy.)

      How much you learn doing either course depends entirely on your existing beer/bar/dispense/brewing experience. They go in different directions somewhat. Cicerone more focussed on examination of details, some of which of little (but increasing) relevance in the UK. The “Beer Server” is merely a multiple-choice test that you study for in your own time. It’s like “L Plates” for Cicerone.

      The Beer Academy course will be lead by an expert (in my case a ex-Fuller’s master-brewer who knows the industry inside-out), who you can talk to and ask questions, it is two-days of presentation and discussion (and beer tasting).

      Next question: what is the career value? If you want to join a new-wave-craft keg-focussed bar they might see the Cicerone qualification and be impressed that you’re keen on beer in that particular direction and thus a valuable candidate for a job. A seriously keen headline cask-ale pub will probably be less interested, or even dismissive, but a British “Beer Academy” qualification could impress them.

      [FYI – if I was starting out in the beer service industry and wanted to do Cicerone I’d probably try hard to get a bar job with BrewDog and let them foot the bill!]

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