Get schooled in beer

Some of the more hedonistic college students like to joke that they're majoring in beer. But now, they actually can earn a degree in beer and other craft beverages.

A-B Tech announced in November that the Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast could hold classes as early as fall of 2013. They're waiting for approval from the state, but the proposed curriculum will focus on brewing, distillation and fermentation over the course of a two-year associate degree.

“I think there's a real run on beer, but the key to this, I think, is the research that shows that the next thing that you're going to see … is micro-distilling,” says Scott Adams, director of the Craft Beverage Institute and a chair in the hospitality management department.

With that research in mind, the program will focus on a variety of specialty drinks, including beer, wine, spirits and kombucha, non-alcoholic fermented tea. Students also will receive training in fermented foods. The idea is to produce a workforce for the growing beer industry in the region while preparing for future expansion of the wine and spirits industries.

The associate degree will explore the science behind fermented products and the business of selling them. The first year of the curriculum focuses on science-based production, and the second year explores marketing, distribution, sales and management of craft beverages.

In the beginning, the program will start small with 24 students, but Adams has big goals for the program. “We want North Carolina to be the No. 1 destination for training down the road,” he says. “The goal of the degree is to train our students at an international level. The standard that we're looking at … is the Institute of Brewing and Distilling out of the UK.”

But providing degrees is only half of the Institute's mission: it also will offer a wide variety of continuing education classes targeted toward people already working in the hospitality and beverage industries who want to improve their skills. There will also be classes for home brewers and hobbyists.

In fact, A-B Tech already offers some of these continuing education classes, including a “business of beer” course and a “sensory analysis” class that teaches how to taste beer.

In the future, Adams hopes the students at the Institute will produce an A-B Tech beer for retail sale.

For more information about the Craft Beverage Institute and other programs at A-B Tech, visit

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