For years I had the best of intentions to take the Cicerone Certified Beer Server Exam*, but never got around to it.
I would print the syllabus, make note cards listing key information, and do my best to study. However, I never felt prepared enough, and after a week I would give up.
That all changed this past Spring when I discovered the secret to passing the exam: BeerSavvy, an interactive, online program created by the good people at Cicerone.org.
BeerSavvy is a little pricey at $199 but includes cost of the exam which runs $69. The program helps narrow the focus to the key topics you’ll need to know to pass the exam.
The course is easy to navigate and offers a brain-pleasing blend of video, text and pictures.
You’ll also get the beer style flash cards included with the BeerSavvy fee. I found these flash cards moderately helpful. Not sure how much I learned with them, but they sure made me thirsty
BeerSavvy breaks the exam material into small, manageable chapters. This was a lot easier to digest than the 11 page syllabus that I studied before discovering BeerSavvy. After each chapter, there is a short quiz to help reinforce the information presented.
My approach was to work through each chapter on BeerSavvy and write down key points on note cards. The note cards allowed me study offline and re-visit information I was having trouble with.
The order and organization in which the BeerSavvy materials were presented helped a lot. It allowed me to focus solely on the key information, group the relevant content together, then break it down into smaller pieces.
Beer styles and key beer stats (ABV, IBUs, etc) were difficult for me to remember. In particular, I struggled with the naming of German beers. Munich Dunkel, Marzen, Helles, and Heffeweizen all seemed like a foreign language. Turns out they are.
It helped me to translate the words so I could remember and relate to the beer styles. Dunkel means dark, Marzen means March, and Helles means light, or pale in color. Heffeweizen comes from heffe (yeast) and weizen (wheat). I understand this may be very basic information for many folks, but for me it wasn’t.
The BeerSavvy took the approach of simplifying the beer styles, and it made all the difference for me.
How much time did I study? I gave myself one week to get it done. Spent about six hours on the beer savvy, watching, reading and taking notes. Spent about four hours reviewing my notes, memorizing/learning what I could. So, 10 hours total for me. Probably could have gotten away with less.
What to expect on the exam: There are 60 multiple choice or true/false questions. The test is timed for 30 minutes. There is a clock that starts running as soon as you click Start to begin the exam, so be ready. There is a small lag between submitting your answer and getting the next question, so if you’re worried about time, make sure you’re on a solid internet connection.
My guess is that about 80% of the exam questions were covered on the BeerSavvy. The other 20% were on the syllabus (the same syllabus that I gave up on several times). In total, the test took me less than 15 minutes and I got 97% (58 out of 60).
A final piece of advice is to make sure you take the test in a location where you won’t be interrupted. I don’t believe you can push pause on that 30 minute timer. When time’s up, it’s up.
My goal was to pass the test, but more importantly it was to really understand beer basics: history, major styles, draft maintenance and basic service. I probably could have done it without the BeerSavvy, but it would have been a lot harder.
If you’ve wanted to take the exam but were like me and keep putting it off, I recommend you check out BeerSavvy. They offer a free preview here: https://www.cicerone.org/us-en/certified-beer-server-study.
Sign up, study up, and pass the exam today. For regular updates on Craft Brewery Finance, click here to signup for the weekly Bulletin.
*Cicerone and BeerSavvy are registered trademarks of the Craft Beer Institute