Northbound: Bringing craft brewing to campuses

With the 9th Annual San Diego Beer Week (Nov. 6 through Nov. 15) underway, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how North County can prepare the next generation of brewers and industry leaders.

North County is something of an epicenter for craft brewing in the region; according to West Coaster Magazine, there are approximately 43 breweries and brewpubs located here, some of which are nationally recognized. Stone Brewing. Pizza Port. Lost Abbey.

To make great beer, hands on training is essential; most brewery workers learned how to brew by rolling up their sleeves as home brewers or from apprenticing at a brewery. While college and advanced degrees aren’t required for an estimated 80 percent of industry jobs, they do provide valuable education and perspective, particularly in an increasingly competitive industry.

In San Diego County, there are two main continuing education programs specifically focused on craft brewing: the San Diego State University (SDSU) College of Extended Studies Business of Craft Beer Professional Certificate, and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Extension Brewing Certificate. Founded in 2013, the SDSU program is a six class, one-year program that provides interactive education and hands-on learning for current brewery employees, servers, hospitality workers, and those looking to enter into the craft beer industry.

Courses include curriculum for craft beer marketing, beer styles, tasting room management and “front of the house” topics. The UCSD Brewing Certificate is an entry-level program split into three parts —brewing science and technology; the business of brewing; and a three-month internship at a brewery under an instructor’s supervision.

While these programs are beneficial for adult learners, why not provide college students with a hands-on industry experience? Consider Innovation Brew Works (IBW), a brewpub on the California State University, Pomona campus.

Opened to the public in fall 2014, IBW is part of Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Training, Technology and Incubation in Innovation Village. The brewpub was built in part to provide research opportunities and hands-on work experience for college students interested in brewing.

Under the supervision of a professional brewer, students participate in every part of the brewing process, including cultivating hops and grain, milling grain, and propagating yeast strains. IBW currently offers 10 beers on tap, all brewed in house on a three-barrel system. The IBW kitchen also serves up an array of artisan pizzas, salads and sandwiches. While none exist at this time, CSU Pomona has planned to offer for-credit brewing classes.

Imagine students at CSU San Marcos or UCSD afforded the opportunity to work on an on-campus brewpub, learning what it takes to make excellent beer and operate a restaurant and brewery. An existing local brewery or brewpub could build a small new satellite location on campus, perhaps one owned by an alumnus. Such an opportunity could provide a competitive edge to the North County brewing industry and complement efforts to retain and recruit talented workers in our region — generating more tax revenue and tourism business in our local economy.

That’s something worth raising a glass to.

Vince Vasquez is a think-tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident. 

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