Beer geeks rejoice! Master Cicerone Dave Kahle joins us to discuss all things beer related!
H&C: Hi Dave! We’re super-excited to have you join us for this ongoing discussion! Can you tell us about your background and how you wound up in a pretty awesome profession to most people?
Well, I never had a plan to be in the beer business. I’m not sure many people do. Honestly though, it’s a lot of fun talking about beer for a living. Most people I work with in the business are amazing, passionate professionals and they make it a great field to work in. Creating and selling a product that people enjoy makes it easy. Sure beats talking about vacuums or toilets.
Like most jobs I’ve had, it came out of curiosity and a desire to enjoy what I do for a living. Early on, I worked jobs that earn you money and that’s all, like construction, or bussing tables, or stocking store shelves. After college I worked in more fulfilling occupations that can hold your interest, such as working for a record label, being a sushi chef, a zookeeper, a professional musician and a photographer. Isn’t that most peoples career path? Eventually I opened a bar/restaurant in Chicago and began to dig deeper into learning about wine, spirits and beer. In the early 2000s craft beer was gaining some traction, and I made it a focus of my beverage menu. I read everything I could about beer back then. I wanted to have a solid grip on the products I was selling. Fortunately, the oldest brewing school in the country, the Siebel Institute is located in Chicago and the Cicerone Certification Program was formed here as well. Being exposed to these resources is what pushed me over the edge into the craft beer business. I attended several courses at Siebel, took MicroMatics Draft Tech class, Gorst Valley’s Hop Production classes, and took and passed all levels of Cicerone certification, culminating with becoming the second Master Cicerone.
Becoming a Master Cicerone is extremely difficult and quite rare. Can you elaborate on the certification process?
Cicerone certifications are similar to Sommelier certification for wine. There are multiple levels with increasing difficulty. I was preparing for the second level before I took the first. Back then there were three levels of certification. Today there are four levels. The first exam is a short online multiple choice exam, the second level is the Certified Cicerone exam which involves a written exam, as well as an oral exam and tasting exam. The Advanced Cicerone exam comes next and is a bit of a gatekeeper exam for the Master Exam. The Master Cicerone exam is a serious challenge with a pass rate somewhere around 10%. It takes place over two full days and consists of writing essays that seemingly go on until you can’t hold a pen anymore. There are 8 tasting exams, and hours of oral exams with industry experts. Needless to say it was the most difficult test I’ve ever faced.