Beer is one of the world’s most consumed beverages, rivaled only by coffee and tea. With such popularity globally, and especially locally, people are naturally looking to gain as much information as they can about the fermented beverage. In San Diego, with 80-plus breweries in operation or vying to start brewing, craft beer enthusiasts are now clamoring to get every bit of information available.
Those looking to gain more of an industry perspective and operational understanding of craft beer now have an amazing outlet in the form of the Professional Certificate in the Business of Craft Beer at San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies. The program aims to prepare students for the industry and any career possibilities, with instructors who are professionals in the business of craft beer. The certification consists of six or nine courses, depending on the level of education you are interested in.
Next week I start my fourth course in this program, Brewery Start-up Readiness, an in depth look at the challenges associated with opening a brewery locally. The first three courses, Exploring Craft Beer, Beer Styles and Marketing Craft Beer set the foundation for the information that will be presented for this latest course.
Exploring Craft Beer is the first course offered in the program and is the “prerequisite” for all courses that follow. First time craft beer explorers as well as seasoned beer geeks get a crash course on the history of beer, craft beer styles and an overall look at the world of hops and malt from industry insider “Dr.” Bill Sysak. The course does not get overly beer nerdy as there are people from every walk of life, from beer beginners to home brewers to people who actually work in the trade(s). As you might guess in a course about craft beer, sampling and tasting topic appropriate brews is a part of the class. What better way to bring a group of people together?
The Beer Styles course expands on the consumption part of the education, diving head first into the hundreds of different styles of beer brewed around the world. Each week instructor Scot Blair (Hamilton’s and Monkey Paw) guided us through the history and terminology behind different styles of beer, from lagers to delicious stouts. This class was quite communal, as we sampled 5-8 beers each class, discussed things like the mouthfeel and aroma of the beer and learned about styles not in the mainstream (dortmunder anyone?). It was a crash course, with TONS of information to digest in a short period of time, but if you take the time to study, you can learn a lot about the many styles around the world.
Marketing Craft Beer covered the things you are already familiar with, social media, blogs, etc., and the things you might be less familiar with like conducting surveys and market research. Each table had a class project of coming up with a new concept for a brewery or restaurant or craft beer themed business and seeing it through to conception. The instructor Gonzalo Quintero has a background in marketing for craft beer as cofounder of Craftbeertasters.com. The strength of this particular course was the ability to bounce ideas off other classmates and the social connectivity and networking prospects of other likeminded craft beer drinkers.
So why the need for such a program in San Diego? Referred to as the Napa Valley of Craft Beer, San Diego County’s craft beer brewers see their numbers continue to grow, with sales spiking nearly 15 percent from $680.9 million in 2011 to $781.5 million in 2013, according to a recent report by the National University policy institute. In other words, the opportunity for industry growth, expansion and more jobs is only going to continue locally. Having worked as a beer department purchaser for a large beverage retailer, I can say there is definitely a lack of craft beer education along many areas of the industry. I have had more than my fair share of sales reps pushing the wrong products to me (bad item for the store’s demographic), act like their product is superior to long standing leaders in the brewing world and frankly not know much about the styles or release dates of some very important beers. With this type of education available, perhaps someday vendors will be able to hire smart craft beer people to push their products, and tasting rooms will be staffed with certified craft beer people and not just a pretty face who can kinda pour beer.
For more information or to register, call (619) 265-7378 (SDSU) or log on to http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/craftbeer