Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

The 7 Best Beer Brewing Classes of 2020

Learn how to be your own brewmaster

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Beer photo composite

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

Certainly, being a brewmaster is one of the coolest occupations in the world, but the job description isn’t limited to just tasting beers: There is a world of work involved in making a beer, from fermenting grains to designing a label to running the daily operations of a brewery.

There are plenty of courses where aspiring brewmasters can learn the tricks and tools of the trade. These courses cover the entire process and are taught by industry-trained professors, but instead of philosophy and English like a typical college course, lessons span brewery business planning to the agriculture of grains to the logistics of draft lines.

Regardless of whether learners are looking to boost their homebrewing projects or if they are following their dreams of opening a brewery, an education in brewing is a strong foundation for any career in the beer-making industry.

If would-be brewers are looking to head back to school to start a career in the alcohol industry, these are the seven best places to take a beer brewing class. The courses below cover not just brewing fundamentals, but also the skills needed to start a brewery and a business and to properly build and critique beers.

The 7 Best Beer Brewing Classes of 2020

Best Overall: Siebel Institute of Technology

Siebel Institute of Technology

Siebel Institute of Technology

Dr. John Siebel founded his eponymous school in 1872, and the institution has been honing and perfecting the craft of beer brewing ever since. The program is considered one of the pre-eminent beer educations in the country.

Consider it a course on building a brewery: The lessons prepare beer lovers who hope to open their own establishment one day.

The flagship course at the Chicago-based school, the WBA International Diploma in Brewing Technology Program, is a 12-week program on beer technology. Comprised of six modules, it tackles the dynamics of brewery operations. Students will learn about the malting process, the structure and morphology of chemicals in beer, the botany of hops, the steps for making beer, and more. The price is around $18,000.

An international program, parts of the studies are completed at Munich’s Doemens Academy, where students learn about and sample local beer styles. The course teaches students how to navigate the ever-changing beer industry.

That's not the only certificate the school offers, though. There are courses on beer styles and beer evaluation, executive-level overviews of the beer industry, and draft mastery courses. Beginner-level courses include a class on how to start a brewery, an overview of distilling operations, and a quality control course.

If students do not want to tackle these courses as a whole, each module is offered individually. There are plenty of courses to dig into, like brewing microbiology, masters of beer styles, and sensory of flavor production. The school also offers online courses for virtual learners.

Best for the Budding Beer Entrepreneur: Portland State University Business of Craft Brewing

Portland State Brewing

Portland State Brewing

Portland, Oregon, is often dubbed the beer capital of the world, and this popular online program at Portland State University gives beer fans the tools to join the buzzing market.

This resource, at about $2,796 for the full program, is focused on the business side of beer brewing. Built for brewers of all levels, the program is ideal for the home brewer looking to expand their practice or current beer industry members seeking to reach the next step of their career. Students leave the program with an investor-ready business plan and the skills to pitch their brewing concept.

Coursework covers the science behind the brewing process and also touches on distillation, cider and mead production, and business models.

There are four credits required to earn a graduation certificate. Mandatory courses are the Basic Business for Craft Beverages and Craft Beverage Business Management. Students must also pick two of the following four courses: Strategic Craft Beverage Marketing, Pub and Tasting Room Management, Craft Beverage Distribution, Regulation and Compliance for Craft Brewers.

The program must be finished within three years but can be completed in two semesters, so students have a lot of flexibility. The best part is that you do not need prior experience to enroll.

Local breweries are involved in many lessons, and students walk away with the option to work at star local breweries like Rogue, Migration Brewing, and Bull Run Distillery, who have all partnered with the program.

Best for Beer Geeks: UC Davis Master

UC Davis Master

UC Davis Master

The University of California, Davis is widely considered the premier school for all things wine and beer.

For serious brewers, the in-depth Master Brewer program costs about $16,000. It is held between March and June every year and prepares students to enter the upper echelons of the brewing industry through a full-time, 15-week program. Graduates have gone on to start successful brewing companies like Third Space Brewing in Milwaukee.

Although a range of topics is covered, the program focuses on brewing science and brewery engineering. On the science level, the course hones in on malting, mashing, brewing, fermentation, and finishing, as well as fluid flow, yeast fermentation, heat and mass transfers, and solid-liquid separation.

Other topics range from brewing chemistry to courses on identifying the quality of beer just based on the foam. In addition to these tactical and technical beer courses, there are webinars on craft beer law, with tips on navigating alcohol regulations and setting up a craft brewery.

One caveat: It’s recommended that students have prior brewing experience before enrolling.

Best Mentorship: Fermentation Science Program at Central Michigan University

Fermentation Science Program at Central Michigan University

Fermentation Science Program at Central Michigan University

This one-year program at Central Michigan University is run with the help of local breweries Mountain Town Brewing Company and Hunter’s Ale House. The course of study is designed to build a student’s knowledge of beer in both the laboratory and the brewery. Students here have crafted some of the best beers in the country and consistently earn top accolades at national student brewing competitions like the U.S. Open College Beer Championship.

The first semester lays the groundwork with courses on the basics of fermentation, beer-making, and flavor profiles.

The next semester moves into making beers, with students trying out their newfound technical knowledge by creating a beer for Mountain Town Brewing Company’s tap program. This semester also runs through practical knowledge, such as how to choose the right equipment for a brewery and tips on day-to-day-operations.

Class sizes are small, giving students plenty of one-on-one time with professors and industry experts.

The cost of the program will set students back a single year’s tuition at the university, which is around $12,960. Courses are open to students who are currently working on a degree at CMU and students who are only seeking the brewing certification. The program is centered around hands-on training, so a remote option isn't available.

The program ends with a 200-hour internship, during which students can apply their skills in situ at a local brewery of their choice.

Best for Brewers of All Levels: Central New Mexico Community College

Central New Mexico College

Central New Mexico College

Named one of the top schools at the U.S. Open College Beer Championship in 2018, there are three different courses of study at the Central New Mexico College, all starting at about $296 per credit hour.

The Beverage Management Certification program covers leadership skills, human relations, food pairing, and safety—useful tools for those looking to open a brewery.

Second, the Brewing and Beverage Management program takes this foundation a few steps further. Over the course of four terms, students learn brewing technology, beer recipe formulation, and cellaring techniques. On the front-of-house side, students learn purchasing techniques, cost controls, marketing, and business/hospitality law, as well as skills for managing a business such as guest services, sanitation, and menu management.

Finally, the Brewing Technology Certificate is designed for entry-level beer fanatics looking to follow a career working at a brewery. Course materials cover beer production, styles, brewhouse and cellar operations, and brewery maintenance. This certificate emphasizes the knowledge of equipment, technology, and skills required of entry-level employees at commercial-scale breweries.

Full-time students can complete the course in one term. To enter the program, students must be over 21 years old and be able to lift 55 pounds.

Best Luxury: Metropolitan State University of Denver

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Metropolitan State University of Denver

With a range of degree and non-degree options, students at the Metropolitan State University of Denver learn in a $3.7 million beer lab and get hands-on training at Tivoli Brewery on campus. A microbiological fermentation lab, packaging lab, and draft training centers are also available to students.

Dedicated brewers can commit to the Bachelor of Science or Arts in Brewery Operations, or a Bachelor of Science in Craft Brewing and Pub Operations. Both take 66 to 70 credits to complete and cost around $10,733 for non-Colorado residents. In-state tuition is $3,944.

The Bachelor of Science or Arts in Brewery Operations covers the breadth of beer making, from the brewing process and beer analysis to quality control, packaging, sales, and distribution. Courses run the gamut of beverage promotions, beers of the world, and fermentation, but there are also broader courses like macroeconomics and molecular chemistry.

The Bachelor of Science in Craft Brewing and Pub Operations starts at a cellular, scientific level, teaching students about the process behind crafting beers. The program still covers everything beginning brewers need to start a craft brewery, the tricks and trades of the industry.

Graduates of both courses go on to become brewers, cellar operators, brewery managers, or sales agents. There are also less rigorous programs that include minor and certificate programs in brewery operations.

Notable faculty includes Scott Kerkmans, and acclaimed beer judge and one of the first five certified cicerones in the world, a rank in the beer world that's comparable to a master sommelier certification in the wine world.

Best Online: Prud’homme Beer Certificate

Prud’homme Beer Certificate

Prud’homme Beer Certificate

Prud’homme is a comprehensive beer education program specifically intended to walk students through brewing essentials. Founded by Labatt’s Roger Mittag, Prud’homme offers four levels, two of which are available online.

Level One, at around $200 for online classes or around $395 for in-person ones, is a primer on the world of beer, venturing through ingredients, brewing processes, sensory evaluation, beer history, draft beer, beer and food pairings, and pouring & serving standards. The course can be completed in less than 10 hours of modules.

Level Two, at $795, covers brewing processes plus beer history, styles, and sensory evaluation. It also functions as an introduction to different draft setups such as tap systems and kegerators. The course requires about 33 hours of study. An online exam is given at the end.

Levels Three and Four, at around $1,295 each, prepare participants to earn the title of beer sommelier—an expert in tasting, pairing, and caring for beers—through 50-some hours of extensive courses on beer education, beer design, and development.

Some levels of the Canadian-founded program must be taken in-person in Toronto or in New England, but there are self-directed online courses that let students complete the lessons at their own pace as well.

How We Choose the Best Beer Brewing Classes

The world of beer is constantly changing and adapting. There are plenty of learning resources to teach aspiring brewers the skills to forward their career, regardless of whether they are new to the industry or if they are seasoned brewers.

The above courses were picked based on how well they prepared brewers to enter the industry. There are also courses that specialize in teaching how to set up a brewery or how to build a beer brand, from grain to glass. We wanted to include a variety of courses that taught everything from the science, biology, and chemical makeup of beer, to the daily operations of running a brewery.

We also chose courses that were geared to different styles of certifications, from sommelier certifications to more technical degrees. Courses also were chosen based on their flexibility, esteem, and successful alumni.

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