How To Get An Education in Beer and Brewing

by Todd Hamm | Updated: April 15, 2019

If you’re here to learn to brew beer, you’re in the right place.  We have a ton of resources for you, including 9 Beer Schools To Get An Education In Beer And Brewing.

It’s amazing how many options we now have for beer education. From online homebrewing courses, to full weekend immersion style intensives – it’s all out there.

In addition to a vastly superior product (yeah, I said it), it’s my belief that craft beer is thriving in popularity because of the surrounding education in the form of beer dinners, tastings, festivals, publications, and online resources.

Did you know that the number of breweries in the U.S. increased by nearly 17% just last year? We’re well over 5,300 breweries nationwide, which account for over 424,000 jobs. With numbers like that, there’s no room to slouch if you’re looking to break into the industry.

A formal education in brewing might just be the key to your success.

Whether you’re a beer drinker, in the hospitality industry, or a homebrewer looking to go pro, there is something for you.

Before committing to any one school, be sure an check out these awesome mini-courses on how to get started at home:

Here’s to you, Ben

Professional & University-Affiliated Beer Schools

Siebel Institute of Technology

No list of brewing schools is complete without Siebel. Dr. John Siebel founded the Siebel Institute of Technology in 1872, making it the oldest brewing school in the country.

Their flagship course is the 12-week International Diploma in Brewing Technology program, which is broken up into 6 different modules.

You can sign up for any module or course individually if you don’t want to tackle the entire program, and some are offered online!

Siebel Institute of Technology Logo

Here are some courses that peak my interest:

I like Siebel because of its a la carte offerings. Even if you don’t want to take a full brewing program, you can take a shorter class here and there to beef up on your knowledge. If you want to go pro but don’t want to take the intensive brewing course, at least consider some of the other options at Siebel. The competition in the craft beer world demands that you sharpen your skills.

American Brewers Guild

American Brewers Guild Logo

The American Brewers Guild is similar to Siebel except that it is a distance education program, meaning the courses are delivered online (you can attend beer school in your undies, yay!).

Actually, it is not 100% online because it includes a one week stint at a local brewery.

The two available courses are:

The main difference is that the CBA course includes a 5-week apprenticeship program after week 22.  The ABG is tempting if you are trying to get into brewing but can’t afford to leave your day job to travel to a campus like Siebel.

They say it best on their site: “The programs are perfectly suited to the working professional brewer or the candidate who is serious about making a career transition to professional brewing.”

UC Davis Extension

Siebel and the American Brewers Guild are good trade schools, but if you’re looking for a University setting for brewing then you can’t go wrong with UC Davis in Davis, California.

The college has offered undergrad degrees in fermentation since 1958, and in 1991 they created technical training programs for brewers through the UC Davis Extension.

They currently offer a 10-week Professional Brewers Certificate Program and a more intense 18-week Master Brewers Program.

You can also quickly knock out one or more of their Short Courses, such as:

  • Intensive Brewing Science for Practical Brewing – 5 daysUC Davis Extension Logo
  • Introduction to Brewing Chemistry – 1 day
  • Brewing Basics: Going Beyond the Kit – 2 days

The cool thing about these programs is that they are located at the Sudwerk Brewery.

Oregon State University

Oregon State University is another huge titan in beer academia. Their B.S. in Fermentation Sciences is a very popular program that emphasizes the science behind brewing.

OSU and UC Davis boast the most advanced university brewing research labs on the planet. They dig deep into all aspects of brewing science and continually expand our knowledge and understanding of beer.

Unlike UC Davis, OSU houses their very own state-of-the-art brewhouse and malt house.

At least once per month, students go through the entire brewing process from malting the grain to bottling and packaging the finished product.

OSU frequently hosts professional guest brewers from local and regional craft breweries, and they’ll even send you over to Germany to gain hands-on experience from some of the most cherished breweries in the world.

Not interested in a full Bachelor program? OSU also offers short bootcamp/workshop style courses like the Craft Brewery Startup Workshop and the Beer Quality and Analysis Series.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University (ASU) also offers a B.S. in Fermentation Sciences. This program began in June 2012, making it the newest program on our list. However, they’re already a MBAA-recognized brewing program and offer many of the same amenities as OSU (such as an on-site brewhouse).

ASU places a major emphasis on brewing science, but they won’t let you out the door without a solid understanding of the brewing business itself with courses in business operations and marketing.

You’ll also take a technical dive into brewery facility design and learn the mechanical and engineering aspects of all the fancy equipment and shiny buttons we all wish we could push.

According to their website, “students have worked to develop computer control and monitoring systems, cooling and heating solutions, options for process-water reclamation, increased energy efficiencies, uses for spent grains and solids, and efficient design and layout of the facility and laboratory.” That’s amazing!

Rather take the bootcamp route? Well, you better hop on the waiting list. Their super popular 5-day short course consistently sells out. This course is designed for the professional brewer or advanced homebrewer looking to take their skills to the next level.

Central Washington University

CWU offers a 4-year B.S. in Craft Brewing as well as a new Minor for science majors and a Certificate for non-science majors enrolled at CWU. 

Their classes are focused on the science behind brewing, but all have a hands-on brewing experience, and even the Certificate is designed to provide an overview of the biochemistry, microbiology, technology, and business of craft brewing.

Don’t let the term “overview” fool you. This program is very challenging and interactive, and will even test the abilities of seasoned brewers.

CWU doesn’t have a big state-of-the-art brewery or malt house. Instead, students brew on a 10-gallon pilot system that most breweries use to experiment and test new recipes. Still very practical, and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of brewing on a big system you’ll know that it’s not much different.

Besides, you’re guaranteed to take field trips to surrounding breweries to check out the “big boy systems” and to explore the massive hops industry in the nearby Yakima Valley.

Metropolitan State University of Denver

MSUDenver_50th_Formal

MSU in Denver offers a B.S. in Brewery Operations or Craft Brewing & Pub Operations.

Both beer programs are part of MSU’s Department of Hotel, Tourism, and Events, which blends the art and science of brewing beer with the hospitality knowledge and operational skills required for employment after program completion.

The Brewery Operations program dives deep into brewery operations and the science of brewing commercial beer, while the Craft Brewing & Pub Operations program adds Food Fundamentals, Preparation, and Beer Pairing courses.

MSU Denver also offers a minor/certificate program.

Colorado Boy

The Colorado Boy (Ridgway, Colorado) Immersion Course is different from most brewing schools. It is essentially a mentorship program one on one where the student (or student and partner) spend three days at the brewery doing everything that they would normally do in their own brewery.

This program is more than just brewing beer. The goal of this program is to help the students open their own brewery in an efficient and cost-effective way.

coloradoboy

The mentors (and program graduates) will help you design your brewery, source equipment, work through licensing, establish business processes, hire staff, and even develop the recipes you’ll use to start the brewery.

An absolutely priceless resource if you ask me!

According to the program director, Tom Hennessey, 60% of course participants have gone on to start their own pub. It is an elite fraternity of breweries that continue to help each other succeed.

San Diego State University

San Diego State has two beer schools to choose from. One is a semester-long program and one is a 9-day “Bootcamp” program intended for people who live outside San Diego.


San Diego State Business of Craft Beer Program

The program provides hands-on training for those looking to enter or already working in the brewing industry on the business side, rather than the brewing side of operations.

This includes creating passionately knowledgeable management and staff in the hospitality industry to give customers a first-class experience.

The program also supports the growth of the Cicerone® program by preparing students to pass first- and second-level certification. All courses were developed with input from the instructors and advisory board members – a who’s who of local craft-beer industry superstars.

The program’s networking opportunities create a fast track for graduates to enter the industry. Classes are held on-site at local breweries and at SDSU.

San Diego State “Craft Beer Camp” Program
Here’s your chance to learn from industry experts in one of the finest destinations on earth, and the U.S. Capital of Craft Beer — San Diego, California. Now in the second year, Craft Beer Education Camp gives craft beer aficionados around the world the opportunity to experience a nine-day version of SDSU’s popular Business of Craft Beer program.

Last year’s inaugural camp drew students throughout the United States, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Australia.

All courses were developed with input from the instructors and advisory board members of the Professional Certificate program — a who’s who of local craft-beer industry superstars — to ensure the most relevant training. Through hands-on learning and tasting, take your craft beer career to the next level.

Certifications & Continuing Education

Whether you’ve got a couple courses or a full Bachelor’s degree under your belt, it’s always nice to add a certification to your resume. Check out this list of certifications to get you started.

If you’re more interested in casual learning, check out the section below about CraftBeer.com.

Beer Judge Certification ProgramBJCP Logo

From their mission statement: “The purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills. We certify and rank beer judges through an examination and monitoring process.”

If the thought of judging beer competitions sounds appealing to you, then you should consider taking the BJCP test.

For more on this program, read my story about passing the BJCP exam and becoming an active beer judge. It was a GREAT decision and is probably the best thing I’ve done to improve my own homebrew.

Cicerone Program

Cicerone Program Logo

We’ve all been at the bar and been served beer in a glass that looked like it came out of a swamp.

Or had a waiter who tries to impress us with his beer knowledge but insists Fat Tire comes from Belgium.

The Cicerone Program is the hottest thing in beer education, and it was created to educate businesses that serve beer.

Created by beer industry veteran Ray Daniels in 2007, the  program has three levels:

  • Certified Beer Server
  • Certified Cicerone
  • Master Cicerone

To give you an idea of how hard it is to become a Master Cicerone, there are over 4,000 certified beer servers but only 3 master cicerones. The first time the master cicerone test was given, only 1 out of 7 passed.

Ray Daniels deserves a Nobel Prize for creating the Cicerone program. The lack of beer knowledge at most restaurants is appalling. It’s hard to take a place seriously when the wine list is 10 pages long but the beer list could fit on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Maybe once Ray has educated the bartenders of America he can get to work on that domestic beer issue.

Master Brewer’s Association of the Americas

The Master Brewer’s Association of the Americas was formed in 1887 (website came later) by three Chicago-area master brewers with the purpose of advancing, supporting, and encouraging scientific research in brewing malt beverages and making that research available to the public through direct contact.

MBAA offers several courses ranging from very focused 2-day courses to intense 2-week immersion courses that include over 30 presentations from 20 different industry experts.

These immersion courses are designed to increase knowledge and expand the student’s network by facilitating engagements and research opportunities with industry experts.

MBAA also offers frequent webinars and their own Beer Steward certification.

Members receive discounts on all course offerings, certifications, and free access to all webinars.

CraftBeer.com

The Brewers Association has a family of three websites: The Brewers Association, The American Homebrewers Association, and CraftBeer.com. CraftBeer.com focuses on beer education and the site is nothing short of phenomenal.

With a smart woman at the helm and a great team around her, CraftBeer.com has become the premier source for consumer beer education.

The site is frequently updated with everything from cooking with beer, to pairings, to industry stories and commentary.

Here are some recent gems for your perusing:

This is a place for those people who have seen the light and discovered craft beer. Rather than a degree or certification, this is ongoing education that you weave into your everyday life.

But if you’re just getting started, here’s a great first lesson for beginners on the getting started brewing beer at home.

What about you?

Are you looking for a formal education in beer? Looking for an Online Homebrewing Course?

Do you have a short list of beer schools you’re considering? Are you even sure that you will enjoy this new hobby,…. obsession?

We always recommend taking a few specific online course before jumping in to a full out on campus program. That way you can try it on, walk around a little and see if it’s a good fit for you.

Todd is a man of many hobbies. Obstacle course racing, programming, cooking, snowboarding, thinking of random business ideas, weight-lifting, beards, and most recently homebrewing. With little time to become a full-fledged beer geek, Todd focuses on the practical side of brewing. He’s always looking for ways to improve his process and shorten the brew day without sacrificing quality or control. Todd is an up-and-comer in the exploding Richmond, VA craft beer scene.