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Perseverance Pays Plenty

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

Perseverance Pays Plenty


Perserverence Pays Plenty

A not so brief outline of how long it took and the experiences I had in passing the Advanced Cicerone® exam. Fair warning: there will be F bombs. The supporting actors in this story are: My fabulous husband  who is the best ever in all aspects, Tyson (who lent multiple ears, shoulders, guidance, and support), and some wonderful friends, family, and beers.

Rikki Welz - Advanced Cicerone Announces New Level

the Advanced Cicerone®. I tell my husband I think I want to do that, since the Master seems too extreme for my needs, but Certified doesn’t seem like quite enough for what I want to do in life with beer.


Enter Lottery

Enter lottery for West Coast Exam in fall 2016..


Win Lottery

Won the seat lottery to sit the exam in California in November


Take the Advanced Cicerone Exam

Took the exam for the first time, at the Bruery Terreux in California. Read about what it entails here. After the exam I got to chat and kvetch (“what the fuck is geosmin?!”), and drink some delicious brews at that tasting room. I then ubered myself to the Disneyland Trader Sam’s Tiki Bar. I had a Karl Strauss beer and a Shrunken Zombie head cocktail, and congratulated myself for getting out there and trying something so difficult. Go me!


Get Results

 I find out I didn’t pass. (69 out of 100, need an 80% to pass. For that particular exam, the average overall score was 72.68%). Not super surprised that I failed, but I cried a bit. I also learned what fuck geosmin was in the meantime.


Retake Exam in Chicago

Decided what this next study session will look like, and signed up for a retake of the full exam in Chicago 


Sat for Exam

Rikki Welz Advanced CiceroneSat the full exam in Chicago. Definitely felt better than last time. Stayed near Wrigley Field for test which was cool. Then we saw family and drank beers at 3 Floyds, which is conveniently close to Mother-In-Laws home. Score!


Get Results from Exam #2

Didn’t pass the overall again (75%, need 80 to pass), but I did technically pass tasting (got a 77% for that section). Cried. Decided to wait to consider next move after Christmas


Decisions, Decisions

Concluded that I should take a break from Advanced Cicerone, and go for General Certificate of Brewing (from IDB) via self study.


Take General Certificate Exam

Take General Certificate exam in Seattle. I go north to visit my parents, and my dad had a “slipped disk” that had him laid up that day. That turned that week into to be a 3 week hospital stay for sepsis. He survived, is in great health, and always likes to tell you how lucky he is. He’s the person who taught us “Perseverance Pays Plenty.” He’s rad. My mom is also rad. My brother, he’s rad too.


Attend ASBC Lab Training

Attended ASBC Lab training down in Colorado, drank delicious Fort Collins brews, and got to see my friend who was going to Captain Training for her airline at the same time. Bad ass ladies, doing bad ass things!


Results from GCB Exam

Didn’t pass the GCB either. Question myself on all decisions. Cry more.


Reflection Time

Looked through past results to figure out what to focus on this time, and signed up for a
full Advanced Cicerone retake in Seattle. Perseverance Pays Plenty! Or maybe I’m just stubborn?


Meet a Hero

Met my hero Julia Herz at the Pink Boots Society National conference. Told her she’s the
best, found out she also hadn’t yet passed the Advanced Cicerone despite her best effort. Felt better,
and adored her even more after meeting her. Also drank delicious Austin beers with kick ass ladies.


Take the Exam - #3

Took exam at Columbia Distributing, in their Kent location. Met rad folks, overall felt pretty great about the exam. Drank Double Rainbow at the hotel, because the hotel manager saw an IHB email address on the booking, and thought it would give me a taste of home. I’ll recommend that Best Western any time.  


Get Results Back

Well it turned out that I hate everything and everyone. (78% overall). Cry, curse, imagined being Godzilla and knocking down buildings. Drown sorrows while on vacation with friends. Maui Brewing helps all things. Tyson and Paul have serious talks with me about my drive for the test, and if it’s possibly unhealthy (but in a kind way).



More Reflection

Reflect on the fact that some essays got 90%, and a beer style essay got 55%. Talk to Chris at the exam place to ask about grading for specific essays. Tell myself there’s a small chance I could raise my grade to passing with just a really good tasting exam. Drinking more beers? What a shame!


Tasting Retake

Signed up for a tasting retake in Chicago. I got this!


Sat for Tasting Exam

Sat the tasting exam, felt pretty ok about it. Met and hung out with very cool people who were also doing the tasting only. Also had beers with the same friend who is now based in Chicago (Captain Karla!), saw more family, and drank more 3 Floyds. 


Tasting Exam Results

2pm. So much for trying the easy route, because I didn’t bump my score up high enough. Pretty sure I cried. I also began to dread seeing the Cicerone Org in my email inbox.


Written Retake Signup

3:45pm- Signed up for a written retake in Denver. Fuck it, I have the info in my brain! I’m so close!


Machines are Complex

Discover a machine is statistically not so good at its job. Another existential crisis ensues. Cry to husband about not feeling ready for exam whatsoever due to work stressors.


Exam was Postponed. Enter Covid-19

Exam that was scheduled for 3/25/2020 in Denver is postponed, due to the virus that unfortunately shares a name with a beer. “Thank fuck” is the email I send to Tyson and my husband.


No St. Paddy's Day Fun

First St Paddy’s day since 2013 that I didn’t go to an IHB party. Watch Dropkick Murphy’s on youtube live, and ponder the future of the coronavirus.


A Machine of Hell

Installed a machine that enjoys eating all of Morgan’s and my time, energy, and enthusiasm.


Take Exam at Home

 I sit the exam at home, online, with me and my screen recorded. The kitties only caused minor catastrophes. I don’t feel so hot about the test, especially after all the time and energy dedicated to the problem machine since July, and I told anyone who’d listen I bet I got a 76%


Get Results from Exam

I got a 76%. I contemplate quitting my job, cried a TON, and was generally surly and weepy for the next week or so. Paul and Tyson console, and encourage me to take a break, or reassess how I go into the test. 


Keep on Keepin On

After prolonged discussions with my husband and Tyson, signed up for another written retake at home/Chicago (depending on virus) for February.


Stay Home and Study, Maybe.

Per advice from Paul and Tyson, stay home from work to study and be in a fresh clean brain mindset for test. Afternoon of the 18th, my husband comes home to tell me 6 pallets of very important time sensitive beer froze in shipment and were leaking. Fuck.

Distract my brain with watching Perseverance Rover land on mars.

“This is the year” I tell myself, “Perseverance pays plenty” like my dad always says!


Sit the Exam!

Sit the exam. Felt great until 20 mins left in the exam I experienced technical difficulties. Spent the next hour texting Chris at Cicerone, and trying to figure out my next move. Will the essays be erased? Will I need to take it again?

Why is this happening?!

Have a beer at
Pretty Fair with Paul to relax.


Stay in Contact with Houston

Chris stays in contact, everything is recovered (“Except my 20 minutes! I could have used that time!” I hear being yelled in my brain). I set a reminder on my calendar 4 weeks out to warn myself of potential result email. 


Get a Tattoo

Get a tattoo that includes the phrase “Perseverance Pays Plenty,” and a jackalope. Realize I unintentionally made myself an arm of optimism with the Monty Python tattoo that was already there… could be worse!


Another Quarantine St. Paddys Day

2nd St Paddy’s day in the great quar, watched the Dropkick Murphys live on TV again, existential crisis about future, past, work, family, the test, etc


Receive an Email

9:13am. See the dreaded email pop up in my inbox. Do I open it? Put your big girl pants on Rikki, you can do this!





The next hour is a whirlwind of thanking Chris, telling and kissing Paul, grabbing a beer off the line (Mel’s Magic fresh off the line was more than perfect that morning), telling and high fiving everyone I see, call my Dad (who, again, always said, “Perseverance Pays Plenty!”), group text all my loved ones and friends, and proceed to celebrate with many many beers at Pretty Fair and some Trevari of course. 



Rikki Welz, Advanced Cicerone®

Rikki Welz, Advanced Cicerone Rikki Welz, Advanced Cicerone®


What's Next?

Decide in front of fireplace at Timberline lodge (while sipping a beer, on our mini celebration trip, as Paul was on the slopes) what my next tests and certifications will be.

Like my dad and mom also emphasized: Never stop learning!



Rikki is an Advanced Badass!

An interruption from the Iron Horse Brewery Cousinhood for a second.  As you can no doubt see,   Rikki is indeed a certified, Advanced badass!   She is as kind as she is driven.   Anyone that has had the pleasure of meeting her knows how contagious her enthusiasm for people and beer are.   She is too humble to use such a title, fortunately, Jared was able to intercept her blog post so we can make this declarative statement.   

From an internal slack message, here’s what brewer John P, had to say 

“Congratulations to @Rikki Welz  for passing her advanced cicerone test! It’s been a very challenging road for her learning all the aspects of beer tasting and the brewing process.  To put it into perspective Rikki is now the 5th person in Washington state to pass the advanced test and 116th in the whole country. It is a badge of accomplishment very few are capable of achieving. Excellent job Rikki’!

From the cicerone website:

“Those who achieve this certification possess expert knowledge of beer and excellent tasting ability. Such knowledge generally results from several years of additional study and tasting after achieving Certified Cicerone®. Well-prepared candidates will have excellent and extensive style knowledge, hands-on experience managing beer service, direct familiarity with brewing process and ingredients, and frequent and repeated experience in beer and food pairing.”

Finally, here’s a bunch a pictures of Advanced Cicerone®,  Rikki Welz. 

We are super lucky to know you and have you on the Iron Horse Team.

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One Comment

Sabrina Burnshartsfield
July 11, 2021 3:33 am

Excellent Job Rikki. After reading your story and long journey I feel so happy and excited for seeing and following your dream and as Your Parents taught You PERSEVERANCE PAYS. GOD BLESS AND MAY ALL YOUR DESIRES AND DREAMS BE SUCCESSFUL ALWAYS. I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY.

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