Some universities offer strange courses. In fact, you can actually take classes in everything from Sindarin (Elvish) to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. (On a side note, we would totally love to take both of these.) When you consider that, it’s really no surprise that you can take courses in beer — the most surprising thing, in fact, might be that these classes are super legit.
Since the popularity of craft beer has skyrocketed in the last decade, many with a passion for brewing have discovered that they also need some real business knowledge to survive in an increasingly competitive industry. Conversely, those on the business side of beer have discovered that knowing about the actual craft of brewing is necessary to keep up. According to ABC News, the number of craft breweries in the United States has grown to 1,400 in 2005 to over 4,000, meaning that anyone who wants to make a career in craft beer needs to know what they’re doing.
As a result, the University of Vermont, Portland State University in Oregon, and San Diego State University in California are among the colleges offering specialized programs in beer. University of Vermont’s program is so new, it hasn’t even begun yet— it starts this February — but the online certificate program has already drawn applicants from all over the country. Portland State University’s professional certificate program is also online. Founded in 2013, it’s become one of the school’s most popular offerings; in fact, the school is looking into expanding the program.
San Diego State’s program is slightly different: held through the university’s College of Extended Studies, no classes are offered online. Instead, they’re held at the university, as well as local breweries. We don’t know if this means students get to do tastings as part of class, but if it does, sign us up. Some of the programs also offer apprenticeships, so students can get real life experience with breweries or distributors — and let’s be honest, these would totally trump any internships we did in college.
UVM’s program has partnered with Harpoon Brewery, whose Director of Human Resources Rich Ackerman has noted that hiring new talent is “a critical part” of independent breweries keeping their autonomy as large scale brewers and outside investors become more involved with craft brewing so apprenticeships are actually beneficial to breweries as well as students. Ackerman also maintains that, even with the necessary business knowledge, craft brewing is ultimately a passion.
While they may still sound strange, we’re impressed by how cool, and practical, beer classes can be!