There has been recent discussion in parts of the Caidan bardic community about the development and recognition of skill. Beorn of the Northern Seas, premier Bard of Gyldenholt (and the third to hold that title), shared how the Royal University of Meridies used to promote that development with a standardized curriculum and rank structure. It occurred to me that I’m part of two communities in Caid that seek to promote and recognize learning. To (hopefully) further the discussion, I thought I would share my knowledge of and experience with both of them.

The Caid College of Heralds has a rank structure, the purpose of which is to recognize competency. The policy is available on the web, and is pretty simple. If you call yourself a herald, you’re a Macer. If you demonstrate basic competence in two of the three areas (book, field, and court heraldry) and the Crescent Principal Herald agrees, you get made a Pursuivant. If you demonstrate advanced competence in two of the three and basic in the third,and the Crescent Principal Herald agrees, you get made a Herald.

The Right Noble Brewers’ Guild of Caid also has a rank structure, the purpose of which is (I believe) to develop competency. That policy is also available on the web, and it’s substantially more detailed. Here are what I think are the critical parts of it:

  • The program has three major components: education through classes, experience through the making of drinks and having them evaluated, and participation through the attendance of meetings.
  • In reality, the classes are the least emphasized of these. They’re pretty short, and can be replaced with a Q&A session with a senior brewer to demonstrate that you already know the material. However, the inclusion of a standard curriculum means that everyone at a particular level has at least been exposed to the same standard set of things.
  • The experience and evaluation component is the central piece. It encourages breadth and depth at what I feel are the appropriate points on the learning curve. Want to become an Apprentice? Make three different kinds of things that “don’t kill judges” (which is Reinhardt Medebruer’s description of what a 50-point score is). Want to step up the next level to Journeyman? Now you need to demonstrate consistent brewing skill across seven different kinds of drinks (and a 70-point score is a solid result). Want to become a Masterbrewer? Pick a speciality and wow us with your knowledge and skill in that area (because 80-point scores are hard to get, particularly if your documentation isn’t top-notch).
  • Because of this, the Brewer’s Guild also has a very rigorous judge training program. (And my experience has been that the better I get at judging drinks, the better I get at making them.)
  • The participation component puts a cap on how quickly you can advance, particularly at the higher levels. There are only four Council meetings a year, so even if you had a local branch that meet monthly, you couldn’t really get from Novice to Masterbrewer in less than two years. This program take a long time to go all the way through (and I think it should).
  • This program is entirely opt-in. There are many brewers in the Kingdom who don’t participate in it, and the Brewer’s Guild doesn’t force them to. Nobody outside the Guild is really aware of the existence of these ranks or what they mean. (And amusingly enough, Master Donal O’Brien, who was made a member of the Order of the Laurel in 2006 for his brewing skill and has served as Guildmaster, is a Journeyman in the Guild.)

As I said, I have experience with both of these: I’m a Herald in the College of Heralds and an Apprentice in the Brewer’s Guild (with about half of my requirements for Journeyman met). Of the two, the Brewer’s Guild model is much more my style. It lays out what you need to do to gain the experience needed to develop theory-informed practice. It really is a training program, whereas the College of Heralds model is a certification program. I don’t know if some sort of structure would be useful to the larger bardic community in Caid, but if there were one, I would like to see on much more along the lines of the Brewers’ than the Heralds’.