CNM Student Becomes Certified Beer Expert

Yes, that's actually a thing!
November 26, 2019

To say that Shawn Mansfield knows a lot about beer is an understatement.

 Shawn, 46, who’s completing his associate degree in Brewing and Beverage Management recently became the first CNM student to be named a Certified Cicerone, otherwise known as a Level 2 cicerone. A cicerone is like a sommelier but for beer, and he’s now among New Mexico’s most knowledgeable experts. (There are fewer than 20 Certified Cicerones in the entire state.)

 “I’m excited because my Level 2 will go a long way in helping me break into the beer industry,” he says. “I’m not sure what I want to do next, but it might be anything from brewing beer to managing a brewery. Sometime in the next 10 years I’d really like to own my own brewery.”

 The process to pass his Level 2 was grueling. In addition to his normal CNM classes, Shawn also took professor Asa Stone’s “Essential Skills for Beer Sommelier” course, a month-long preparation course that she ran last August. Shawn then spent weeks studying.

“It was an all-day, all-night process to get ready,” he says. 

There was beer drinking involved, but most of the drinking was just sampling so he could taste various beer types. Afterwards, Shawn headed into the four-hour exam where he had to do all of the following, and more.

 —List and explain all the necessary steps to brew a beer

—Take apart and reassemble a beer faucet, otherwise known as a tap

—Call up the alcohol by volume (ABV) range of a particular and chosen-at-random beer such as a Berliner Weisse

—Taste a series of beers, decide if they were good to serve, and if not, identify what went wrong in the brewing process

—Identify up to 70 beer types in blind taste test

—Decide what beers would pair with certain foods (such as Chicken Tikka Masala) and then name three specific brands of that beer

—Explain the origin of any beer type

For Victoria Martinez, the Director of CNM’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Tourism program, which oversees the Brewing program, Shawn’s certification and the Level 2 program are a big step forward. She’d like to offer the Cicerone Certification Program every year and open it to CNM and non-CNM students alike.

“Our entire program is aimed at elevating the brewing industry from the inside out, and I look forward to a lot of people following in Shawn’s footsteps,” she says.

Shawn says he might be certified, but he still wants to continue learning. He used to think beer was just something you drink and is now in love with the process and the history. 

“The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know,” he says. “The doors have really opened wide.”