Let’s just say becoming a Master Cicerone is not easy. While more than 50,000 have passed the first level Cicerone exam known as Certified Beer Server, only 10 individuals have now earned the Master Cicerone title — the third and top level of the program. To put that in perspective, there are twice as many Fields Medalists (noting that honor has been given out a little longer).
Recently, the Cicerone Certification Program announced the second European to become a master — Scotsman Rob MacKay — who became the tenth individual to earn the title of Master Cicerone. MacKay is the second European, joining BrewDog co-founder James Watt.
MacKay earned the certification through a series of exams culminating in two days of intense taste panels plus written and oral questioning about beer styles, draft systems, beer evaluation, brewing technology and beer and food pairing given on May 5 and 6 in Chicago.
“Rob MacKay shows what happens when you combine passion, talent and hard work all in one place,” said Ray Daniels, brewer, author and founder of Cicerone. “In a very short period of time, he’s been able to master a large body of knowledge and develop an excellent set of tasting skills. We’re very proud to welcome Rob to the ranks of the Master Cicerones.”
Founded in 2007, the Cicerone Certification Program tests and certifies beer expertise similar to the wine world’s Master Sommelier program. The Master Cicerone exam includes six hours of written questions, 12 separate oral examinations and eight tasting panels for a total of over 40 samples. Candidates need an overall score of 85 percent to pass. Twenty-two candidates took the May 2015 exam in Chicago, with one individual achieving a passing score. Across all Master Cicerone exams, there have been 96 exam attempts by 69 individuals with 10 individuals achieving a passing score.
About Rob MacKay
Rob MacKay joined the craft beer industry when he got hired at BrewDog brewing in Scotland just over a year and a half ago. And while he works in marketing and graphic design, he jumped into learning about beer and brewing.
“I sat the Certified Beer Server and Certified Cicerone exams within a month of joining BrewDog,” said MacKay, “I figured the best way to understand what we were doing as a company was to just jump in at the deep end!” After that, he was invited to join the company’s taste panels, which is where he says he really started to learn a great deal about beer. “Quality control is an integral part of how our brewery operates and I’m honored to work alongside our team of highly trained sensory analysts in making sure that our beer is as good as it possibly can be.”
MacKay joins the nine previously designated Master Cicerones: Andrew Van Til of San Francisco; David Kahle of Chicago; Rich Higgins of San Francisco; Nicole Erny of Oakland, CA; Neil Witte of Kansas City, MO; Mirella Amato of Toronto, ON; Pat Fahey of Chicago; Patrick Rue of Placentia, CA; and James Watt of Aberdeen, UK.
The knowledge required for the Master Cicerone certification is outlined in the program’s Master Syllabus, which can be viewed at www.cicerone.org. The website provides information on the other levels of certification leading up to the Master Cicerone exam. The next Master Cicerone exam will be held in Chicago on November 3 and 4, 2015.