The growth of craft breweries across the globe has fueled demand for training to equip this new generation of brewers with the knowledge and skills needed to produce consistently high-quality beers. Many have turned to the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD), whose internationally recognized brewing qualifications provide a training and development structure, leading from the introductory Fundamentals of Brewing & Packaging right through to Master Brewer level.
Training is provided in a variety of ways to suit the candidate’s needs and location. For most examinations, individuals are able to acquire the requisite knowledge either by attending classroom-based courses delivered by IBD-accredited trainers or by completing the IBD’s online learning program. It’s also possible to take all modules together or take them over a number of years, depending on the candidate’s previous knowledge and which qualification they are aiming for.
Two North American brewers — Aaron Golston from Lagunitas in Chicago and Rodney Hughes from R&B Brewing in Vancouver — recently went through the arduous process of receiving their IBD Diploma in Brewing. Obviously these two were already pretty advanced when it came to brewing — did they really need that extra work? How did it help them?
Well, let’s ask them.
Quality manager, Lagunitas Brewery, Chicago
Aaron Golston has been quality manager at the Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Chicago for two-and-a-half years. He started on the IBD training ladder in his previous role, as an Analytical/Microbiology Specialist at MillerCoors, in 2011.
Golston’s route into brewing wasn’t entirely straightforward: He was enrolled on a PhD. program in textile chemistry at the University of California, Davis, when he stumbled into a lecture on brewing by Dr. Charlie Bamforth. Already a keen homebrewer, he decided to switch to Bamforth’s Masters in Brewing, which led, after graduation, to the role at MillerCoors.
Golston’s first IBD examination was the General Certificate in Packaging — a qualification he clearly rated highly as he now encourages his team at Lagunitas to complete it. The following year, he started the Diploma in Brewing, completing all three modules within four years — taking a year off between modules 2 and 3.
“The more informed you are, the better decisions you make,” he said. “Studying for the diploma has given me a more holistic view of brewing, so I can speak in a more informed manner to colleagues and vendors. I visited a glass facility recently and was able to ask more educated questions, something I couldn’t have done before taking the exams.”
The diploma exams were far from easy, according to Golston.
“I put in a couple of hours of studying several nights a week and on the weekends, reading through the IBD’s revision notes, text books and going over past papers. The format was quite different to other exams I had experienced, as they were entirely essay answers, so I needed to practice that technique,” he said.
Securing the Diploma in 2015 made all the hard work worthwhile, said Golston: “With this qualification, I feel I can walk into any brewery and quickly understand the way they do things, so it’s opened up new opportunities.”
Head brewer, R&B Brewing, Vancouver
Hughes passed the IBD’s Diploma in Brewing in June 2015 after attending the Master Brewers’ Program at the University of California, Davis. Gaining the qualification helped him to secure his current role as head brewer at Vancouver microbrewery R&B Brewing, which he joined in late 2015. Prior to R&B, Hughes worked for Steamworks Brewery in the same city and has been homebrewing for around six years.
“Preparing for the exams locked in knowledge that I now use every day,” said Hughes. “It has given me the language to speak intelligently to seasoned brewers and has helped me troubleshoot countless issues in the brewery.”
The UC Davis program was “perfect preparation” for the exams, said Hughes, but added that “a tremendous amount of self study” was required on top of classes, and he advised would-be Diploma students to be prepared for the workload.
For Hughes, gaining the diploma was “less about letters after my name and more about retaining and gaining knowledge that will help me be the best brewer I can be. The qualification has already helped me get to where I am, and I’m sure it will only help me in the future.”
The IBD’s Master Brewer qualification is something Hughes is considering for the future, after he gains more experience in the industry, as a way of continuing to develop his brewing knowledge and skills.
More on the IBD
The IBD is proud of the broad appeal of its examinations, as its chief executive officer Jerry Avis explained, “Our examinations are designed to be accessible to candidates around the globe, whether they are working for a multinational operation or a small craft brewery. The earlier stages of examinations are in multiple choice format, which makes them easier for candidates with English as a second language.
“To succeed in the increasingly competitive brewing market, it is crucial that brewers underpin their passion for the product with knowledge from a trusted source.”
Here are the IBD modules:
Fundamentals in Brewing & Packaging: Designed for non-technical personnel working a brewery who would benefit from background knowledge in beer production
General Certificate in Brewing/General Certificate in Packaging: Provides international recognition of a basic, underpinning knowledge and understanding in the principles of brewing operations or packaging operations.
Diploma in Brewing: Provides international recognition of comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the principles of brewing science and technology. Can be taken as a stepping stone to the Master Brewer qualification or as an end in itself.
Master Brewer: The most advanced IBD brewing qualification. Most candidates have previously completed the Diploma in Brewing, or a recognized degree in Brewing Science.
For more information on getting your own diploma from the Institute, head on over to its website.