Fess Up. How many times has someone tasted a homebrew you made, and asked if you ever considered going pro?
It’s likely the majority of brewery owners and brewmasters operating today were asked the same thing. The difference, perhaps, is that they acted on their passion. Certainly, you can too, and there’s never been a better time to jump in with both feet.
Let’s face it, making craft beer is fun, but it has also become big business. As more consumers continually make the shift from mass-market macros to drinking the multitude of taste options available with craft beer — as well as the joy of visiting a local brewpub at the end of the day — breweries have popped up to meet the demand. The craft beer pioneers have gotten bigger too. New Belgium Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Ninkasi, and Bell’s, for example, all started with homebrewers. Now, these pioneers are the faces of the revolution.
Given the proliferation of microbreweries in the United States (and around the world), the business of brewing beer is booming. In fact there are now 4,000 active breweries operating in this country alone (according to the Brewers Association) as compared to only 858 a mere 20 years ago (and just 110 breweries 30 years ago — including large-scale commercial brewers). With the rise in breweries, an increase in professional brewing education programs has occurred naturally.
It wasn’t so long ago that the options in the United States consisted of the University of California-Davis, Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology, and the American Brewers Guild as places where one could obtain a “formal” brewers education. I put formal in quotes because in the past many would-be pro brewers simply read all they could, worked tirelessly at un- or underpaid apprenticeships, and pretty much did anything for the hands-on training needed to produce beer on a large scale. Brew school wasn’t as available an option. Today, it’s different, as dozens of universities, specialty schools, community colleges, and technical institutes have started up brewing programs, covering all aspects of brewing education from the brewing basics to the science of fermentation to the business side of brewery and brewpub operation.
The first step to enrolling in a brewing program is to determine what kind of brewer you are now, and what kind of brewer you want to become. Do you want to master the complexities of Belgian ales, or obtain enough knowledge to concoct any beer style (and maybe create some new ones)? Are wild yeasts and sour beers your passion? Do you want to open a brewery and understand the ins and outs of brewery operations from milling grains to running the house brewpub? Answering these questions is essential in determining which program is right for you.
For example, if yeast is your focus, Oregon State University offers a Bachelor in Fermentation Science, while Central Michigan University offers a similar Certificate of Fermentation Science. Want to play brewmaster and pub owner? Consider Langley, British Columbia’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Brewing and Brewery Operations degree. Do German purity laws excite you? Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany offers an International Diploma in Malting and Brewing Technology. Of course, many school programs cover multiple aspects of brew creation and production, but choose a program wisely to obtain the certifications or degrees that meet your exact needs and desires.
Time is also an important consideration. Courses run from a couple intensive weeks to several years, particularly at a traditional university. For example, programs at the the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh, Scotland include a Postgraduate Diploma in Brewing and Distilling at 9 months and an MBA in Brewing and Distilling, which can take 2-7 years to complete. If you have enough focus, there are “short courses” available as well. The American Brewers Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program is condensed to just six months. Both the UC-Davis, and Siebel Institute Master Brewer Program’s clock in at an intense five months. But be ready for long days and longer nights studying. Also, even if a short course is in order, most schools offer additional courses worth considering, such as brewing theory, malting, yeast,
On top of these options, there are also options to earn international brewing certificates (such as the Doemens’ option mentioned earlier), which can open the doors to working in breweries worldwide.
A number of schools are also now offering online courses that would-be pro brewers can complete at their leisure. If it’s hard to drop everything (like family) to attend school, and have the ability to stay engaged, this could be for you. Yet, let’s be realistic — brewing is a hands-on experience. That’s something else to consider when researching the right program to meet your needs. Do you want to spend a lot of time in the classroom and then apprentice for that hands-on experience, or enter a program that spends as much time around the brewhouse as the classroom?
For many, where one attends brew school may come down to cost. On one end of the scale, the Scandinavian School of Brewing in Copenhagen, Denmark offers a Master Brewer Diploma for $35,100. That pretty much tops the list. Yet, program costs vary greatly. On average, many hover around $15,000, with some as low as $10,000, while others are nearer $28,000. Short courses and specialty programs also vary greatly in cost, frequently determined by the length of the course. These can be inexpensive, such as the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Microbiology for Brewers ($189 for 2 days), to Boone, North Carolina’s Appalachian State University’s moderately priced Brewing Short Course ($1,800 for 5 days), to the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ (St. Paul, Minnesota) Brewing and Malting Science program ($4,140 for 2 weeks). That’s just part of the range. Look around carefully. Spending a little more may get you into the brewery sooner — but be prepared for the challenges of those short courses.
Speaking of being prepared, something that will pop up frequently as you explore the various options of the various universities are prerequisites, particularly in math and science. It doesn’t matter if you brew the best IPA west of the Mississippi and have won dozens of homebrew competitions, without these prerequisites, schools such as UC-Davis won’t even consider your application. These courses don’t have to be completed at the brew school of choice, but can typically be satisfied at most universities and junior colleges. But check with the brew school of choice first, just to
Another helpful tip heading into school — and to make the most of the experience — is to be as prepared as possible. Read everything you can on brewing. Volunteer your time at a local brewery (this may take some convincing) to gain that hands-on practical knowledge, and continue to experiment while brewing at home. There may be time to do this too, depending on your chosen school. Bigger programs, such as UC-Davis, are already full and have waiting lists far into the next year.
So, to repeat: Except for the few and far between, making the jump to the big time is not as easy as simply taking your homebrew skills to the next level. It does happen, but realistically, brewing beer on a commercial level with most of the new brewing technology in the industry today requires some special skills. Now, you know where to get them.
If you’re ready to pack your bags (or go online) and get started, the following is a list of many professional brewing programs to expand your brewing horizons:
Alltech Brewing and Distilling Academy
Phone: (859) 225-8095
Programs: Offers a variety of individual courses relating to all aspects of brewing and brewery operation.
American Brewers Guild
Phone: (800) 636-1331
Programs: Craft Brewers Apprenticeship (CBA): $10,450 (7 months)
Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering (IBS&E): $8,250 (6 months)
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Phone: (828) 262-8158
Programs: Brewing Short Course: $1,800 (5 days)
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
Asheville, North Carolina
Phone: (828) 398-7900
Programs: Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation A.A.S. (5 semesters)
Phone: (334) 844 3264
Programs: Graduate Certificate: Brewing Science and Operations: $18,000 (1 Year)
Graduates will be eligible to sit for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s (IBD) General Certificate / Diploma of Brewing examination.
Brewlab University of Sunderland
Phone: +44 (0)191 549 9450
Programs: Certificate in Practical Brewing $6,370 (3 weeks)
Diploma in British Brewing Technology ($15,425) (9 weeks)
Brewlab also offers shorter courses in most aspects of brewing.
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Phone: (989) 774-4000
Programs: Certificate of Fermentation Science (1 year)
Central Washington University
Phone: (509) 963-1386
Programs: Craft Brewing Certificate (30 weeks) Bachelor of Science, Craft Brewing
College of Beer and Malt
Phone: (34) 91 527 72 55
Programs: Master in Brewing Science and Technology $15,000 (6 months)
Classes in Spanish or English
Colorado State University: Better Beverage Institute
Fort Collins, Colorado
Phone: (970) 491-6265
Programs: A variety of workshops, certificates, and MBAs in Brewing Operations Management or Wholesale Distribution Management.
Ithaca, New York
Phone: (315) 787-2248
Programs: Brewing Science & Technology Workshop (1 day) $180
Dakota County Technical College
Phone: (651) 423-8000
Programs: Brewing & Beer Steward Technology Certificate (21 credits) $3,998
Phone: +49 (0)89/85805-82
Programs: Master Brewer Program: $27,300 (6 months)
International Diploma in Malting and Brewing Technology: $17,640 (3 months). Classes in German and English. Doemens offers many additional courses for all levels of brewing, including online programs. Includes brewing theory, malting, yeast and fermentation, and other programs.
Phone: (972) 860-7102
Programs: Journeyman Brewery Certificate $3,600
The International Centre
for Brewing and Distilling
Phone: +44 131 449 5111
Programs: $ 13,800–$25,000 per academic year for all programs below:
BSc (Hons) Brewing and Distilling (4 years)
Postgraduate Diploma in Brewing and Distilling (9 months)
Postgraduate MSc in Brewing and Distilling (1 year)
Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Brewing and Distilling (2–7 years)
MBA in Brewing and Distilling (2–7 years)
Institute of Brewing & Distilling
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7499 8144
Programs: A variety of professional certifications from beginner to expert. Exam centers are offered across the USA and Canada.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Langley, British Columbia
Phone: (604) 599-2357
Programs: Brewing and Brewery Operations: $18,000 (2 years)
Madison Area Technical College
Phone: (608) 258-2301
Programs: Craft Brewing Certification: $1,157 (3 courses)
Master Brewers Association of the Americas
St. Paul, Minnesota
Phone: (651) 454-7250
Programs: Brewing and Malting Science: $4,140 (2 weeks)
Brewery Engineering and Technology: $4,140 (2 weeks)
Brewery Packaging Technology: $4,140 (2 weeks)
Note: Preparatory courses for the IBD exam.
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Phone: (303) 556-5740
Programs: Bachelor of Science in Brewery Operations
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Phone: (905) 641-2252
Programs: Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management: $14,000 (2 years)
Phone: 1-800-661-6537 ext 8247
Programs: Brewmaster & Brewery Operations Management: $14,300 (2 years)
Oregon State University
Phone: (541) 737-6486
Website: http://oregonstate.edu/ foodsci/fermentation-science-option
Programs: Bachelor in Fermentation Science: resident (per term) $2,710, non-resident (per term) $9,065 (3 years)
Origins of Beer Styles and Aromas: short course (2 days)
Craft Brewery Startup Workshop: $1,275 (4 days)
Graduate studies and other intensive workshops are also available.
Paul Smith’s College
Paul Smiths, New York
Phone: (518) 327-6227
Programs: Minor in Craft Beer Studies (21 credits)
Portland State University
Phone: (503) 725-3000
Programs: Online Business of Craft Brewing Certificate $2,796
Phone: (800) 388-2366
Programs: Certificate in Applied Craft Brewing $7,600 (1 year)
San Diego State University
San Diego, California
Phone: (619) 594-3986
Programs: Professional Certificate in the Business of Craft Beer $1,800-2,100 (1 year), or $2,700-3,000 for expanded Level 2 (1.5 years)
Scandinavian School of Brewing
Phone: 45 33 27 24 03
Programs: Diploma Master Brewer $35,100 (16 weeks)
Diploma Craft Brewer: $5,500 (3 weeks)
Siebel Institute of Technology
Phone: (312) 255-0705
Programs: Master Brewer Program: $27,950 (5 months)
International Diploma in Malting and Brewing Technology: $18,000 (3 months)
Associate in Malting and Brewing Technology: $8,800–7,900 (6 weeks)
Siebel offers many additional courses for all levels of brewing, including online programs.
South College Tennessee
Phone: (855) 268-2184
Programs: Certificate in Professional Brewing Science $17,775 (9 months)
Technische Universität München
Phone: +49 8161 71 3437
Programs: Bachelor and Master Studies in Brewing Technology Classes in English and German. No cost (6–11 semesters)
University of California-Davis
Phone: (530) 757-8899
Email: https://extension.ucdavis.edu/contact/Website: http://extension.ucdavis.edu/unit/brewing/
Programs: Master Brewers Program: $16,000 (5 months)
Professional Brewers Program: $9,800 (10 weeks)
Note: Programs above are preparatory courses for the IBD exam. UC-Davis also offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as courses for all levels of brewing.
University of California, San Diego Extension
La Jolla, California
Phone: (858) 534-6705
Programs: Brewing Certificate $5,700 (18-24 months)
University of Vermont
Phone: (802) 656-2085
Programs: Business of Craft Beer, Professional Certificate $6,085 (12-20 weeks)
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Phone: (715) 346-4241
Programs: Microbiology for Brewers: $189 (2 days)
Versuchs- und Leranstalt für Brauerei
Phone: +49 30 450 80-298
Program: VLB Certified Brewmaster Certificate: $16,400 (6 Months)