College introduces Brewing and Distillation certificate program
BY ELAINE GEROU
Schoolcraft has always enriched the community in numerous ways by being innovative and up-to-date with cutting-edge programs, and now the college may make students, faculty and local residents even happier. After much thought and research, Schoolcraft College has decided to dabble in the art of brewing and distillation.
This Fall semester marks the first ever classes offered to students in Michigan to earn a certificate that will assist students in obtaining a job at a brewery or distillery.
The program, offered through the Culinary Arts department, consists of seven courses equating to 24 credit hours, and is currently limited to 24 students. Registration for classes filled in about a week, according to Rich Weinkauf, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, so there is hope to expand the program to 48 students by the Winter 2016.
Brewery on campus
With the creation of this newly developed program plans are in the works to create an actual seven-barrel system brewery on campus. It will brew beers to be sold individually at the American Harvest Restaurant through a 10-draft system tap room, and six-packs will be sold for take out from the Main Street Cafe. Altogether, Weinkauf said the brewery renovation next to the bakery kitchens in the VisTa Tech Center will cost roughly $1 million, but will take just three and a half years to earn it back according to estimates.
How it started
The idea and concept of the program was all initiated a few years ago when Weinkauf began seeing breweries and distilleries opening in Michigan. A home brewer of 20 years, he saw job opportunities. Last July, Schoolcraft’s Research and Analytic Department conducted an environmental scan to gather further information on the fields of brewing, wine making and distillation. It was found that between 2014 and 2020, jobs in brewing are expected to increase by 200 percent and distillation is expected to increase by 100 percent.
Weinkauf interviewed 18 breweries and distilleries between January and April 2015 through the thorough and detailed DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process, which is the leading online resource for occupational analysis. This process takes one to two days to assess what workers do for tasks, duties, skills and traits. This information is collected, and then is presented in a graphic chart according to dacum.org.
Some of the breweries interviewed were: Shorts Brewing Company, Liberty Street Brewing Company, Jolly Pumpkin’s Cafe and Brewery, Northern United Brewing Company, Fermenta, Witch’s Hat Brewing, Michigan Brewers Guild, Block Brewing Company and even Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago.
“The point I took away from those interviews was they don’t need degrees. What they really wanted was someone who could come in and hit the ground running and knew all of the background knowledge— the science—and how to work on all this equipment,” said Weinkauf.
The art of Brewing
A real world curriculum will be taught in a commercial environment with no toy or pilot labs, and experienced brewers will teach the courses. Two brewers, Tom Block from Block Brewing Company in Howell and Joe Walters from Liberty Street Brewing Company in Plymouth, will teach the program along with Weinkauf.
“Our program really targets the most likely places you will be able to get a job while teaching you all the jobs,” Weinkauf said.
The total operation from brew to sell will be taught, and graduates will be “work ready,” capable of operating all commercial equipment. According to Weinakauf there is a lot of science involved in brewing, so he will teach brewing chemistry, biology, physics, gas laws, the dynamics of heat transfer and formal problem solving methodology all in one course. Students will need to be prepared for a rigorous education.
Currently, only three classes are being offered this Fall, but in the Winter 2016, all seven courses will be running. As of now, no spring or summer classes are planned, but internship opportunities with breweries such as Fermenta are in future plans.
The construction of Schoolcraft’s brewery will begin this month and is scheduled to be finished by April 2016. Schoolcraft hopes to be brewing its first batch of beer by May 2016. Until then, students will utilize the facilities local breweries are offering, such as the 30-barrel system of Liberty Street Brewing in Livonia and the seven-barrel system at the Block Brewery in Howell. Other breweries have also offered to host, and Motor City Gas Whiskey in Royal Oak offered their distillery for teaching, as well as the Rusty Crow Distillery and Spirits in Dearborn.
“It is a lot of hard work and it doesn’t pay very much cash wise, but there are a lot of benefits to doing it. If students register for this program, it will be a major plus into getting a job at a brewery”, said Joe Walters, Brewmaster and General Manager of Liberty Street Brewing Company, the closest brewery to campus. “I absolutely look at this opportunity with the group that is going through this curriculum as pool of people that we will hire from. Not just me and Block Brewing, Tom and I have friends all over the state and country. We can help these people get jobs, if not with us, with other people.”
If interested students did not make it into registration this semester, they should apply for the Winter 2016 term. The only requirement is that the student registers at or above 18 years of age since the law states that a student must be 18 to consume alcohol in a credit class in the presence of an instructor for tasting and learning purposes.
“I think that a new brewery would be sweet and a good opportunity for students,” said Schoolcraft freshman Riley McCardle. “Maybe my parents will go [back] to college. They’ve always wanted to open a brewery.”
If you have a passion for beer and are prepared for a rigorous, challenging and demanding work environment, Schoolcraft has a niche for you.
Prospective students can find more information at http:// www.schoolcraft.edu/major/ culinary-arts/brewing-and-distillation-technology#.VfHDo_ PD9aQ and are encouraged to meet with a Schoolcraft counselor or advisor to discuss admissions requirements.