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What is the difference between a Cicerone vs. Beer Judge by YYCTOURS

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Both Beer Judge and Cicerone accreditations are provided by different companies that created their own programs to cater to the ever growing awareness of craft beer. The Cicerone program was founded in 2008 by Ray Daniels primarily as a way to teach servers and beer aficionados about proper beer service and beer styles. Since then, nearly 100,000 people have taken the program which is divided into different levels, similar to the sommelier program for wine. The BJCP "beer judge" program goes a step further in dictating what the hundreds of different beer styles can, and can not, include. It also teaches history on how every style was (and should be) made and evolved throughout the ages. With the Cicerone program focusing more on 'how to serve, what glass can be used etc.', it serves the front of house (server/bartender) industry best. Whereas, with the BJCP program (Beer judge) setting guidelines for how a beer is to be judged and made, it serves the back of house industry. The BJCP certification also allows one to judge beer all around the world.

Having been enrolled in both programs, the YYCTOURS team can say that each are very challenging but we are happy to share what we have learn on our Brewery Tour of Calgary. The downfalls to each would be that once you become a Cicerone, you see all the nasty stuff like bubbles inside a glass (which means it is unsanitary) and you notice all the poor service techniques like glasses touching the beer taps and if you try to bring this up to a server/bartender, you are now "that customer". The upside here however, is that your beer tastes much better when you know it is served and maintained properly. With the BJCP program it is much worse. Once you begin studying what a true lager is supposed to taste like, and then you drink samples that win top awards, its very hard to drink anything of lesser quality. You certainly become a 'beer snob' by default and have a much harder time enjoying a beer , unless it is really well done.

If you are wondering about whether you should take the course, just ask yourself if you ever want to enjoy beer again.

Calgary from a hill on teh east side overlooking downtown Calgary and Stampede grounds YYC Beer tours

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