In response to the continued exponential growth of the craft beer industry, opportunities for education in craft brewing are cropping up around the city. Both Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond now are offering craft-brewing certification programs through their continuing education offices.
“We hope to create a pool of qualified candidates to meet the work force needs of the thriving local craft beer industry,” Aimee Walters, marketing coordinator of VCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education, says.
Similar to cicerone certification programs, the courses aim to educate students and assure quality control in Richmond’s craft beer scene. However, cicerone programs don’t include courses about the nuts and bolts of brewing. They only provide assessments that allow craft-beer connoisseurs to showcase their expertise and receive accreditation such as sommeliers in the wine world do. The VCU and UR programs offer not only the type of accreditation that the cicerone programs do, but also educational opportunities for those ready to brew beer professionally.
At VCU, you’ll find two different paths — a craft brewer certificate and a course of study about the business of beer. The craft brewer certificate focuses on brewing processes and the chemistry behind craft beers: College level chemistry and biology credits are strongly preferred in applicants. The business track focuses more on the management and administrative side of the craft-brewing industry. Both start with an introductory course about craft beer, which can also be taken as a stand-alone course for beer lovers. Both programs include local internships.
“We are able to harness the power of VCU with faculty partners from our School of Engineering, department of biology, School of Business and from the VCU da Vinci Center, along with community relationships,” Walters says. “It is a wonderful opportunity for collaboration.” The inaugural group of students reached capacity within 24 hours, with additional requests overflowing to a waiting list.
UR is also offering a beer brewer professional program. Unlike the VCU program, UR’s program doesn’t have two specific tracks of study from which to choose, but one that encompasses the entire craft-brewing process.
“A combination of theoretical and applied courses and — especially — the opportunity for an internship make this special,” says David Kitchen, associate dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. “This is not [UR] telling the community what they want, this is us listening to the community telling us what they need.”