The study of suds

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published August 27, 2015

LIVONIA — For beer enthusiasts, enjoying a pint of carefully concocted craft beer is usually an extracurricular activity.


But at Schoolcraft College, 18600 Schoolcraft Road, brew lovers will now have a chance to study their favorite beverage during a new certificate program in brewing and distillation technology.


According to Schoolcraft College Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Richard Weinkauf, the program was designed after extensive research showed a growth in the brewing and distilling job industry.


With over 200 breweries in Michigan alone, Weinkauf said, the state has the fifth-highest number of breweries in the country.


“Michigan has exploded,” Weinkauf said. “What’s happening, as I talk to folks in this industry, is that they’re having trouble finding a qualified and skilled pool of workers.”


A homebrewer himself, Weinkauf said that although brewing beer is fun, some heavy science is also involved. Not only will brewers and distillers be teaching the classes, but renovations have begun in the Culinary Arts Department of campus to house a commercial-capacity brewery. 


The brewing and distillation certification will be a part of the college’s Culinary Arts Department, introducing the science, operation, business, finishing, packaging and service of beer and distilled spirits.


As with any field, Weinkauf said, an entry-level position might not be a beer lover’s dream job of a brewer.


“One of many jobs you can get is a brewer, but it’s probably not going to be the first one you get unless you’re really, really lucky,” Weinkauf said. “Your first job will probably be pouring beers, interacting with customers in a tap room or packaging.”


Students will be taking classes in brewing science, beer styles and flavors, brewhouse operations and technology, marketing and operations management, advanced brewing and distillation, and beverage management service. Professionals from a handful of local breweries will be involved in the classes. 


Annette May, a certified cicerone and instructor of the beer styles and flavors class, said understanding ingredients and proper flavors and styles is an integral part of the craft beer industry.


“If a brewer wants to create something and he makes the beer, by the time it gets out of his hands into the consumer’s glass, it can be very different if it’s not looked at properly before.”


If there’s one thing May wants prospective students to understand before entering the beer industry, it’s that it is far from glamorous.


“Everybody thinks brewing is a very glamorous job. I hope that a lot of people doing this class will have experience in the industry, because brewing is far from glamorous,” May said. “Seventy-five percent is cleaning and scrubbing. It should be fun, but it’s not glamorous.”


Classes begin Aug. 31. More information, including enrollment details, is available at schoolcraft.edu.