Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials certificate helps students get a foot in the door

February 01, 2016

By Ian Bryce

Craft beer has taken off across Canada with many breweries offering diverse brews for thirsty consumers. With the industry booming, more and more people are looking to start their own beer business or find employment with local brewers.

Obtaining the qualifications to become a beer maker can be tricky. Many fledgling brewers start learning the craft with their own home brews. This trial-and-error process can be costly both in time and resources.

To help people enter the beer industry with a full picture of what’s required to succeed, Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies started offering its Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials Certificate in October 2015. The first cohort finished the introductory course in December.

The certificate program is flexible—those who take each course will be able to finish in nine months while part-time students can take up to five years to finish all of the requirements.

“The program covers everything from explaining the brewing process, business fundamentals, recipe development, to analyzing the quality of a beer,” says Continuing Studies instructor Sebastian Ibarra. “It goes all the way from the barley in the fields to the beer in the bottle.”

Ibarra has a passion for beer and jumped at the chance to teach the program. He was surprised by students' varied backgrounds—some are already working in the brewing industry while others are looking to become investors.

“Having investors know the needs and equipment that brewers are asking for will help both sides speak the same language,” says Ibarra. “It’s beneficial for both brewers, investors and ultimately the consumer because they’ll be producing a better beer.”

There are also those taking the course purely to learn more about their favourite beverage.

Michelle Gowing is one of those students. She enjoyed touring breweries and learning about different styles of beer. Before taking the course, she stuck to certain brands of beer.

“I’ve been learning about how hops and other ingredients and techniques influence the taste of a beer,” says Gowing. “Now, I’m a lot more adventurous.”

Gowing mentioned her enrolment in the course while visiting BRB Brewing in Richmond.

“A few months later they (BRB Brewing) got in touch about a job opening,” says Gowing. “Now, I work there as a marketing and events coordinator. They’ve adapted the position so that I get to train staff on the brewing process as well.”

Chris Achari was already working for Central City Brewing when he signed up for the Certificate program.

“I’ve been trying to get into a brewing position for a long time,” says Achari. “I’ve been home brewing for three years but I registered in the program to further my career.”

Achari, who has a degree in history, was intrigued to learn about the extensive history of brewing. However, he is looking forward to the final course where students will brew their own beer.

Achrai says, “I’ve been thinking about a couple of styles and try something out of the box. A medieval style ale that uses a whole different set of ingredients and wanting to try and recreate that if possible.”

The next introductory course for the Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials Certificate starts on Wednesday, February 10 at SFU’s Vancouver campus.