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BEER EXPERTISE BROUGHT TO A NEW LEVEL AT MKTG

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MKTG’s very own Senior Guinness Brewery Ambassador Chris McClellan was recently notified that he passed his Advanced Cicerone Exam. To put this achievement into perspective, there are currently 100 Advanced Cicerones in the world, and less than 10% of people who pass, do so on the first attempt, as Chris did. We all know that Chris knows beer, and this certification places him in rare company. We sat down with Chris to learn a little bit more about how he turned his love for all things beer into a career, and how the entire Guinness Brewery Ambassador team at MKTG has helped Guinness build on their reputation as a leading global brewery.

Q: Tell us about your role as a Senior Guinness Brewery Ambassador at MKTG:

A: We started the Guinness Brewery Ambassador program at MKTG about three years ago with the vision of building a national team of beer experts and storytellers. This is a totally unique offering in the beer business, even today, with no other brewery offering this sort of team. It’s an unbelievably interesting and competitive beer market here in the U.S with almost 7,000 operating breweries across the country. The previous high for number of breweries was in the 1870’s at just over 4,000!

Today, beer is all about great stories and education, and our efforts have nicely positioned us to fully support and help build on the audience for Guinness’ portfolio. My role is both as a regional Ambassador for the brewery, and strategist for program. I help set some of the vision for the program, along with our entire team of talented Ambassadors, build our digital presence and toolkit, and try to act as a sounding board for any/all beer-related programming in my region.

Q: How did you land a job working in Beer? What was your journey?

A: I have worked in beer for about ten years now, on and off. My first job in beer was upon finishing business school at the University of Vermont when I landed a job at Magic Hat Brewing Company, my local brewery in my hometown of South Burlington, VT. Most people have heard of Magic Hat, so it was a great springboard into the industry. Since then, I’ve worked in various positions, both in strategy, marketing and sales.

I started my storytelling website and digital consulting practice about six years ago, The Brew Enthusiast, which I still try to write for with whatever time I’ve got left in the day (if you’re interested in beer, sign up for the weekly newsletter). I have written about beer for a bunch of different publications over the years as well, which is how I got on the radar for Guinness. I could talk about this story for hours…I’ve gotten lucky more than few times to get to where I am now, and I think most people could say that about their careers in some regard.

Q: What is the Advanced Cicerone® Exam? Is it for Guinness experts only or for beer experts across the board?

A: You can see more details on the Advanced Cicerone exam here, but essentially it’s a very difficult 10-hour exam (all in one day) held a few times a year on all things beer. The Cicerone Program was started eleven years ago by Ray Daniels, a legend in the beer industry. You need to have passed the previous two levels (Certified Beer Server® and Certified Cicerone®) to be eligible to take the Advanced Cicerone® exam.

It’s very similar to the levels of the Sommelier program in wine, which people might be a little more familiar with. It’s essentially built to help certify and benchmark industry standards in knowledge and education.

Not only do I have to be an expert on global and regional beer styles and their history, but also beer quality, draught systems, food and beer pairings, off flavor identification, etc. The sheer breadth of what you can be tested on is quite extensive, so I’m very proud of and humbled by this achievement.

Our entire team of Guinness Brewery Ambassadors, all of whom bring a unique skillset and incredible knowledge to their jobs, are at least at the Certified Cicerone® level, which is an extremely difficult level to achieve by itself and very rare in the beer industry (there are only about 3500 Certified Cicerone’s in the world right now). The program is definitely NOT just for Guinness experts, but most folks who take the Cicerone exams work in the beer business in some capacity. It’s for anyone looking to help certify their knowledge and become a known expert in the field.

Q: How did you prepare for the exam?

A: It helps tremendously if you work in the businessfor a few years at the very least, but on top of that I studied for almost the past few years whenever I had some free time. Beer style tastings, off flavor tastings (when you identify what’s wrong with the beer), reading all of my beer books over and over again, taking apart draught systems and putting them together, reading all the blogs I could, brewing with friends who work in the industry…again, I could go on for hours. It’s fun and a little stressful.

 

 

Q: You are now one of just 100 Advanced Cicerones on the planet! How does that feel and what’s next?

A: It feels great! I’m grateful for the support from MKTG and Diageo to help me get there. The entire GBA team is going to continue to push the needle for a great conversation around beer, and this accreditation is just another step on the stairs. I’m very passionate about beer, mostly because of the fascinating people who work in the beer business, so it doesn’t feel like work to me.

 

 

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Written by Stephanie Rudnick
Stephanie Rudnick

July 12th, 2018 at 11:54 am