Without checking any other facts or databases other than the Craft Brewing Business archives (here, here, here, here, here and here), we’re pretty sure brewing science is the No. 1 fastest growing major in the country. As further evidence, Central Michigan University’s College of Science and Technology is now working to create a certificate program in fermentation science.
CMU’s program would be the first of its kind in Michigan to provide a hands-on education focused on craft beer and the sixth such program in the United States. Students will take a mix of advanced sciences such as biochemistry, chemistry and microbiology, with lecture-based and hands-on laboratory courses that cover brewing from farm to glass. An internship of at least 200 hours in a production-scale facility would be required.
Two nearby Michigan businesses, Mountain Town Brewing Co. and Hunter’s Ale House, are key partners in the proposed fermentation science program, which is going through the academic curriculum process and is expected to enroll its first class in fall 2015.
According to the Brewers Association, only three states — California, Oregon and Washington — offer brewing education programs, found at the University of California–Davis, University of California–San Diego, Oregon State University and Central Washington University.
“As of 2013, Michigan ranked fifth in the nation in number of breweries, behind only California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington,” said Ian Davison, dean of the College of Science and Technology. “This growing industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy, supporting jobs in breweries as well as in farms producing barley and hops.”
In addition to the growing number of breweries in Michigan, two malt houses, a brewing yeast supplier, a brewing system manufacturer and hundreds of acres of hops have emerged during the past five years.
Yet educational opportunities for Midwest brewers are limited primarily to the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas in Madison, Wis. Prospective students often face programs with long wait lists.
“The undergraduate certificate in fermentation science will fill a need in the state and across the region for students to learn the science and technology underlying brewing,” Cordell DeMattei, CMU director of fermentation science, said. “This opportunity expands CMU’s leadership in the sciences and provides the training needed by future leaders of the craft brewing industry.”
The program is expected to appeal to students both in and outside the sciences as well as to brewery employees looking to advance their careers. Those who take the program would be prepared for industry-wide certification tests such as the Institute of Brewers and Distillers General Brewing Certificate and their Diploma in Brewing Modules.
Students studying fermentation science would gain real-world experience at the Mountain Town Brewing Co. Tap Room.
The Mountain Town Brewing’s brewmaster, Kim Kowalski, is passionate about teaching others the nature of fluid dynamics, the importance of safety and quality control, how to identify problems faster in craft better beer, and how to develop new brands, packaging and styles.
“What once was a hobby to brew beer requires more skills than ever to exceed customer expectations. I believe CMU is on the cutting-edge of a great program to help educate individuals on the art and science of brewing with an emphasis on fermentation science,” said Jim Holton, a 1995 CMU alumnus and owner of Mountain Town Station Brewing Co. and Restaurant and Mount Pleasant Brewing Co.