Ryan Hayes may look like your average bartender at first glance, but a small pin hanging from the Tapped: Taphouse and Kitchen employee’s shirt would suggest otherwise.
It is a pin Hayes shares with less than 3,000 people across the world. It is a pin that pronounces him as a certified Cicerone.
Tyler Antkowiak, the general manager of Tapped, said a Cicerone is the beer equivalent of a wine Sommelier. Achieving this certification takes rigorous study and a huge commitment to craft beer.
According to the Cicerone Certification Program, there are four levels of certification: certified beer server, certified Cicerone, advanced Cicerone and master Cicerone.
Antkowiak said Tapped has all of its front of house staff receive at least the first certification, which requires they pass a 60-question multiple choice exam, administered online, with at least a grade of 75 percent or higher.
“It’s a good checkpoint for us to make sure that everyone has a very functional vocabulary with beer — they know the ingredients, they know the history and they know how to communicate about it,” Antkowiak said. “We require that for everybody, but Ryan really picked it up and ran with it … he really went the extra mile.”
Hayes, who has been bartending for almost two years, said it was a lack of knowledge that led him to get the second certification, and that he also wanted a better way to connect the server to the consumer.
“Using my limited experience and just tasting what we had on tap wasn’t enough to help answer customers’ questions,” Hayes said. “I wanted to help on a bigger scale.”
He said the Cicerone certification requires individuals to pass a four-hour exam, in person, which includes a written, tasting and demonstration portion, and grades of at least 80 percent overall and 70 percent on the tasting portion.
It is given more than 100 times each year at sites across the United States, Canada and other international sites, and it costs $395 for a first-time exam, $100 for a retake tasting and $175 for retaking the written, according to the Cicerone Certification Program.
Hayes said he was tested on keeping and serving beer, beer flavor and evaluation, beer ingredients and brewing processes, beer styles and pairing beer with food.
He said those who achieve this certification have a solid and well-rounded knowledge of beer and beer service as well as basic competence in assessing beer quality and identity by taste.
“I tasted a lot of beer, read a lot of books and I watched a few videos to prepare,” Hayes said.
He said he had been studying for over the past year and was officially certified in May.
Hayes said he is already working toward the advanced level, and hopes to one day achieve the final level of certification and join the current ranks of 13 other master Cicerones.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have someone who is so knowledgeable and dedicated on our team, like Ryan,” Antkowaik said. “It’s a huge amount of work, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Olivia Heersink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @heersinkolivia