1. The Effects of Alcohol

  • Absorption and Elimination
    • Absorption is the passage of alcohol into the blood.
      • Most absorption occurs from the small intestine due to its large surface area and rich blood supply.
      • Generally, the higher the alcohol concentration of the beverage, the faster the rate of absorption. However, above a certain concentration, the rate of absorption may decrease due to the delayed passage of alcohol from the stomach into the small intestine.
    • Distribution is the temporary placement of alcohol into various body tissues.
    • Elimination is the removal of alcohol from the body.
      • Alcohol is eliminated from the body by excretion and metabolism.
      • Most alcohol is metabolized, or burned, in a manner similar to food, yielding carbon dioxide and water. A small portion of alcohol is excreted, such as through the breath.
    • Diffusion is the method of passage of alcohol through cell membranes and is governed by concentration differences on either side of the cell wall.
  • Physical and Behavioral Indicators. The following features have been shown to be negatively influenced by alcohol:
    • Vision: (visual acuity, depth perception; peripheral vision; and glare recovery)
    • Reaction time: simple, choice and complex reaction times
    • Tracking tasks: compensatory and pursuit tracking
    • Cognitive functions: concentrated attention; divided attention; rates of information processing; judgement; and decision-making.
    • Psychomotor skills: coordination; body sway; manual dexterity; and general walking
    • Other aspects: memory; risk-taking; overcompensation

2. Responsible Serving

  • Legal Considerations
    • Regulations vary by state. It is important to familiarize yourself with your states particular laws.
    • In General:
      • Consuming Alcohol: Person must be 21 years of age to consume alcohol. Acceptable forms of identification varies with state.
      • Pouring Alcohol: 21 for bartenders and cocktail servers. Tpyically, 18 to serve alcohol in a bonafide eating place — an area primarily designed and used for the sale and service of food.
      • ID Confiscation: Employees have the right to confiscate stolen, expired or false forms of ID. Some states may actually REQUIRE it by law.
      • Serving Minors: Illegal across the board. Most states consider this to be a misdemeanor offense.
      • Happy Hour Laws: Vary by state.
      • Re-corking Laws: Vary by state.
      • Serving Hours: Vary by state.
  • Healthy consumption: Debatable depending on the resource. Alcohol consumed in moderation is thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Most sources say that alcohol in moderation is equivalent to 1 drink over the course of an hour and — for women, 2-3 drinks in one day — for men, 3-4 drinks in one day.
  • Good practice in selling alcohol:
    • Always check IDs
    • Alcohol is not served to intoxicated persons — right to deny service
    • Alcohol is not “over-served” — right to deny service
    • Encourage water & food consumption
    • Call taxi cabs for intoxicated individuals

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Purchasing And Accepting Beer

The first category of the Cicerone Syllabus that I am attacking is:


The section of this category that I will be tackling for this post is:


1. The three tier system in the United States and the reasons for its existence

  • By law, alcoholic beverages must comply with the three tier system in the United States.
  • The three tiers are: Brewers/Importers, Distributors, Retailers.
    • Brewers & importers sell to distributors
    • Distributors sell to retailers
    • Retailers sell to consumers

2. Taxes levied on beer and the retailer’s responsibility for them

  • Federal Excise Tax – paid by brewers
Beer Barrel (31 gallons) 12 oz. can
Regular Rate $18 $0.05
Reduced Rate $7 on first 60,000 barrels for brewer who produces less than 2 million barrels.

$18 per barrel after the first 60,000 barrels.

  • State Excise Tax – generally processed and paid by distributors
  • Sales Tax and other locally-required fees – paid by retailers
  • Overall Tax Burden – according to this 2005 study done by the Global Insight Co. and the Parthenon group:
    • The tax burden borne by beer consumers is more than 68% higher than average for the U.S. economy.
    • In 2003, taxes represented 40.8% of the retail price of beer. In comparison, total Federal, state, and local taxes equal 24.2% of all other purchases in the U.S.

*** Essentially what this means is that, prior to reaching the consumer, beer is taxed AT LEAST THREE times. Then get this, the consumer is taxed at the purchase as well. And in certain circumstances, in certain states, when consuming beer ON PREMISE with a meal at a restaurant, consumers may get taxed TWICE — once for total food and once for liquor. It isn’t very common, but it has happened. ***

3. Assessing your beer shipment: physical condition and age

  • Date code: if available
  • Physical condition of container: not dented or broken, no signs of leakage or box weakness.
  • Temperature: ideally beer will still be cool when it reaches the retailer, the flavor of beer that is warm or hot to the touch may have been substantially altered during shipment.


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Cicerone Beer Server Certification

According to the official website, the prerequisites for Cicerone Certification are as follows:

Must have passed the Certified Beer Server exam within the past two years and have at least one year of work experience selling or serving beer. A recommendation from a brewer, beer wholesaler or beer retailer can be substituted for the work experience.

The Certified Beer Server requires competent knowledge of beer storage and service issues as well as modest knowledge of currently popular beer styles and culture and basic familiarity with beer tasting and flavors as well as brewing process and ingredients.

There are a few useful tools on the site for determining whether or not your beer knowledge is at the Beer Server level. First, assess whether or not the Cicerone Program is suited for you HERE. Then test yourself to see where your knowledge level stands. Register or login from the home page then select “Exam Access” from the “User Menu” on the left. Finally, the Novice Syllabus can be found HERE. Once you feel comfortable with all the topics on the syllabus, proceed to taking the exam online for $69.

The great part about the Beer Server exam is that everyone gets two chances to pass the exam (which is with a grade of 70% of higher).  After the exam is over, your results are analyzed by category to show your areas of weaknesses and areas of strength.

I took the test on a complete whim back in December. I was having the day (well month) from hell. Six months of unemployment began to way on me heavily and my self-esteem was at a serious low. I needed some reassurance that I did, in fact, know my shit when it came to beer.

So without any studying, absolutely no advance preparation and a beer in hand, I took the Ciceron Beer Server Exam and passed. Did I do as well as I should have? No. Being the speed racer I am, I did not read a few of the questions correctly. However, I did enjoy learning about my strengths and weaknesses.

What I learned is that I need to buckle down and study the British styles of beer. I got 50% of the British styles questions correct. I am solid on Belgians (100%), fairly solid with German and Czech (80%), but oddly weak on American styles (75%). Overall, I did well on flavors, beer characteristics, three tier system, glass ware and serving beer (100% on all). I need to brush up on alcohol laws, freshness, ingredients and taste.

If you have any questions about the exam or whether or not you are ready to take the exam, feel free to send me an email:


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Why Become A Certified Cicerone?

Anyone can call themselves an expert on beer.

Heck, my personal business cards say Beer Connoisseur in lieu of having a “job title”.

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But what does that really mean? After all, it is a self-proclaimed title. It would be like calling myself a wine aficionado. Sure I know more about wine than your average person, but does that qualify me as an expert in the subject?

In today’s society, standardized tests are king.

There is a reason why people obtain college degrees. As much as we would love to prove our own intelligence level without a diploma, it makes it that much easier to argue our case with that silly piece of paper.


And forget the significance of a college diploma, one can’t even get into college without a decent score on the SAT or the ACT. As for further education? Try getting into graduate or professional programs without taking the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Not going to happen, my friends.

Would you visit a “doctor” that does not hold a Medicinae Doctor (MD) degree or hire a “lawyer” without a Juris Doctor degree? The Wench thinks not.

Having an official title means a lot in today’s day and age. Sad yes, but true.


If I told you that I gave the best massages in the world, would you pay me $100 an hour to massage you? Probably not. If I was certified in some crazy exotic form of massage from some fancy massage therapy school, I can guarantee that you would pay me big money to massage your back.

There is a large debate on whether or not standardized measures should predetermine one’s ability to perform a certain set of skills. I can argue both ways.


As much as I hate them, I do believe that standardized tests are important. Without them, anyone could declare themselves have any sort of credentials that they want or see fit, by their own standards — i.e.: I drink beer, therefore, I am a beer expert.

Society does need (ahhhh and my liberal nature hates admitting this) some sort of standards when it comes to expertise in different arenas. There has to be some sort of neutral and fair system in place that determines ones level of expertise in a certain subject. Am I wrong?

At this time in my life, I do not want to be a brewer. And therefore, the American Brewers Guild and UC Davis are not really “smart” options. Both are expensive and geared towards brewing.

Nonetheless, I still want to become an expert in beer. I want to know all the intricate details of the brewing process, beer styles, beer ingredients, beer flavor and evaluation, pairing beer with food, serving beer and storing beer. I want to be a BJCP certified judge as well. But I have to start somewhere.

The perfect place to start my career in beer is with the Cicerone Certification Program.

Ray Daniels is the founder of the Cicerone Certification Program. Ray is one of the (if not THE) most knowledgeable people on the subject of beer that I have had the honor of meeting in person. He is extremely inspirational and I consider him to be a mentor of mine.

In addition to meeting Ray Daniels in person, I have also had the honor of interviewing him for my website, Drink With The Wench.

So what exactly is a Cicerone and why is the certification program important?

According to Ray, “The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.  The titles “Certified Cicerone(tm)” and “Master Cicerone(tm)” are protected certification trademarks. Only those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill can call themselves a Cicerone.”

Anyone can call themselves a “Beer Sommelier” — but only the honored few who pass the Cicerone Certification program can tout the title of “Cicerone.”

My goal is to become of those honored few. Wish me luck!


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