More Colleges Meeting Demand for Craft Beer Education


As the craft beer industry continues to grow, a number of universities across the country have begun to offer programs in the business of producing and marketing craft beer.

Data from the Brewers Association shows that over the past decade, the number of craft breweries in the country have grown to over 4,000 from just 1,400 in 2005.

Gregory Dunkling, director of the University of Vermont’s new online business of craft beer certificate program, said that many breweries began with a focus on beer around 5-10 years ago.  At that time, home brewers were beginning to create some delicious drinks, but did not have enough of a business background to be successful on their own and needed to hire additional staff members to take care of marketing, sales, and business operation.

However, since that time the industry has grown and become more competitive, making it harder for those just starting out, said Bart Watson, chief economist with the Brewers Association.

“Certainly the demand for people with a high level of brewing knowledge has gone up and on the business side as well. So I think we’re seeing a variety of different programs look for ways that they can capitalise on that,” he said.

An online business of craft brewing program was launched at Portland State University in Oregon in 2013, filling up in the first week with 40 participants.  Since then, Scott Gallagher, the university’s director of communications, said the program has become one of the most successful professional certificate programs at the school, drawing in people from around the world.  The demand is so high that Gallagher said the school is now looking into ways to expand the program, adding that those who sign up for the class are usually lacking the business skills needed to successfully open their own brew pub.

Other schools that offer business of craft beer certificate programs include University of Portland and San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies, although classes at San Diego State are held at local breweries and in classrooms and are not offered online.

Meanwhile, the program at the University of Vermont has found applicants from across the country, with about half residing in the northeast.  Participants spend about $4,400 for access to two courses, the first of which is on the fundamentals of craft beer while students have a choice for the second course between digital marketing, sales or business operations.  Apprenticeships are available through a network of breweries and distributors.

One such business offering apprenticeships, Harpoon Brewery, cautions that students should not think of craft brewing solely as a business.  “It’s a passion project, first and foremost,” said Rich Ackerman, Harpoon’s director of human resources.