Behind the Beer

Becoming an Educated Brewer

Every type of career requires some form of education. That education may be simple on the job training or as intensive as the journey to becoming a practicing doctor. The rise in popularity of craft breweries of the past 20 years has created a wave of new blood eager to get involved with the business. Still, as a young industry, there is not one defined path for people to take to gain education and entrance into the career. 

Many high profile jobs require a college education. For those looking to become lawyers or doctors, there is no other path. Successful brewers, on the other hand, may have the most diverse educational backgrounds of any group of professionals. 

With the explosion of the craft brewing industry, the number of colleges and universities offering fermentation science degrees, craft beer business diplomas, and beer analysis certificates has grown at the same time. As the industry asserts itself as one that is here to stay, more and more people are looking for ways to get involved. 

Increased interest means the level of expertise needed to get a foot in the door goes up too. There is now a growing line of qualified candidates. Education and experience continue to be the differentiating factors in getting hired, and they are a significant factor in the success of those that start a project of their own. 

The difference in the craft brewing industry is the range of viable options to explore. Having options can be a luxury, but it doesn’t always make the decision easier. 

College and University Programs

The brewery industry is becoming a more sought after destination for generations that have seen craft brewing become a massive spectacle in the states. Even in countries like Belgium, it is rare to see the fandom sparked by individual craft breweries like Tree House and Russian River in America. 

Colleges are always operating to keep enrollment rates high, and they will add the programs to attract young minds. That is not to say that these programs will not produce quality and well-educated brewers. Some of them have earned real respect from the brewing world. Among the most esteemed programs are Oregon State University’s Fermentation Sciences program and the assortment of brewing programs available through UC Davis. 

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Both of the programs mentioned above have access to high-quality brewing facilities. In looking for a program to enter, high-class facilities do not need to be a prerequisite, but hands-on experience with the brewing process probably should be. 

Universities and university extension programs have designed courses to fit the needs of many individuals. Programs could be as short as a five-day brewing summer course like the one found at Appalachian State University, or a standard four-year bachelor’s degree. 

The brewing enthusiast looking the college route will want to ensure they know their intentions with brewing. Spending the time and money to gain a four-year degree in fermentation science could be a costly error if it doesn’t end up being the desired path. For a hobbyist, the shorter and less expensive courses will surely be sufficient. 

Brew Schools 

Universities are not the only educational options where prices can become robust. Some brewing schools hang a sufficient price tag on their entry. Many also work in collaboration with universities. There is no shortage of options in this department. The task is to find the most reputable program for the money that you are willing to spend. 

Among brewing circles, Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago is one of the most well-renowned programs for brewery education. With over a hundred years of brewing education background, the institution deserves its reputation. 

Siebel offers an array of different courses for different levels of expertise. Requirements for entering a certain level course include passing an assessment test or taking one of its prerequisite courses.

The headlining Master Brewer Program at Siebel is a 20-week course that includes spending time in Germany to gain hands-on commercial brewing experience. 

While the Master Brewer Program is probably the course most people think about when they hear the name Siebel, there is a wide range of course options for different interests. The length of these courses stretches anywhere from a few days to multiple months at a time.  

Besides Siebel, there have been plenty of other programs offered that have produced highly respected members of the craft brewing industry. I have personally spoken with brewery managers and owners that have taken courses through the Master Brewers Guild and the American Brewers Guild. 

The most prominent factors in deciding on the best program are availability and expenses. For people with families looking to get involved with these education programs, it may not be feasible to take 20 weeks away for Siebel’s Master Brewer Program. That does not mean there are not programs that will fit the profile.

One of the best things about the variety of brewing education available is the flexibility of it. There are options available in many different time frames and price points. With research, you should be able to find an appropriate fit. 

Online Education

Speaking of the challenge of taking time away from home, some don’t have that luxury at all. For them, online education may be the best route. Just like it has with standard education, online training in the craft of brewing has grown to become a useful alternative. 

The convenience of being able to hone your craft from the comfort of your own home is something that cannot easily be replaced. The main challenge with this is the application of what you are learning. 

Especially with something as involved as brewing beer, it is crucial to gain some hands-on experience with the process instead of just learning theories, ideas, and concepts. Having a homebrewing kit on hand with the course is an effective way to account for this problem.

Still, the unfortunate truth is, if you are looking to work in a brewery and you have no experience with the equipment, you will be at a disadvantage compared to the person who has real-life training. Do not let this discourage you. Without the time or ability to attend a program, an online course is a sound way to give yourself the strong base of knowledge you need for your brewing future. 

The Self-Educated Route

The way the craft brewing industry has grown, self-education has been one of the most utilized means of learning the craft. There are plenty of hugely successful brewery owners that have never been a part of any brewery education course. 

Homebrewing and collaborating with others that share an obsession with the art of brewing is a powerful path to driving innovation. A background in understanding the science around fermentation can’t hurt, but others have proven the knowledge can be acquired along the way.

If there is anything that appears essential in the path of self-education, it is cooperation with someone that has more experience. Think of it as a sort of mentorship. A face-to-face mentorship is not essential either. An appropriate coach could merely be the guide of compiled knowledge in books, websites, YouTube channels, and elsewhere. 

Tasting Courses

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Interest in the beer industry does not necessarily mean interest in brewing. There are routes to being involved in the industry without being directly involved in brewing itself. Tasting courses could provide expertise in understanding the composition of a quality tasting beer. 

A cicerone is the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier. The life and career of a cicerone could be an eclectic one. A working life could include anything from collaborating with restaurants on tap events, with chefs on meal pairings, or with other managers on stock and rotation of products. Beyond that, there is an extensive range of possibilities. 

In a world where the internet is opening all kinds of doors for creative minds to do whatever they please, it would be no surprise to see a cicerone become an influencer in the craft brewing industry. Such a lifestyle could yield opportunities and experiences worth boasting about if the process is handled appropriately.  

Deciding On An Education

If you know the craft brewing world is where you want to be, you only need to determine what part is best for you. From there, you can decide which style of training you need to pursue. All programs mentioned above have their versions of brew training, executive training, equipment training, and more. 

Whether you are looking to own and operate a brewery, work as a masterbrewer in someone else’s brewery, or to be a part of regular brewery operations, there is an educational path that is suited for you. 

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