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Beer School | An Overview of the Country’s Best Beer Education Programs

Brewers' Symposium
Rachel Morrison

Beer School is officially in session. To ease your nerves on the first day, I’d like to remind you why you’re here – for the love of beer, of course. No matter how technical beer school can get, just keep that in mind.

Today is about answering some questions about yourself. What do you want to do with beer? Why are you here? Is this something that you’d like to use as a future fun fact about yourself during an awkward work ice breakers or would you like to use beer school as a stepping stone for your future in beer? Let’s get started.

What’s your ultimate goal in beer?

If you want to work for a brewery, the best way is to apply and get started wherever they have openings and work your way from there. That said, as craft beer continues to become more and more competitive, it never hurts to have an edge, and that’s where beer school comes in. While there are endless options, here are a few popular routes:

  1. Open your own brewery
  2. Brew beer
  3. Sell/market beer
  4. Judge beer competitions
  5. Develop a beer program

Where do you want to go?

Or where are you realistically able to go? Some options may be conveniently located near you, others may be better suited online, that said, here are some popular choices, but know there are more and more schools offering programs in beer. It’s pretty sweet.

  1. Cicerone Certification Program – Multiple Locations
    Many people have heard of Sommeliers for wine, this is the beer equivalent. There are four levels of the Cicerone Certification Program: Level 1: Beer Server Certification, Level 2: Certified Cicerone, Level 3: Advanced Cicerone, and Level 4: Master Cicerone. Each level becomes progressively more difficult, expanding upon beer history, knowledge, and tasting ability. The first level can be taken online, and the next three levels must be taken in-person and include both a multiple choice test and tasting portion.
  2. Siebel Institute – Chicago, IL (with some programs in Germany)
    If you’re at all interested in going to beer school, then you’ve heard of Siebel. It’s not just a big name, it’s the biggest. It’s perfect for people specifically interested in brewing beer as it’s much more technical compared to other programs.
  3. UC Davis Brewing Program – Davis, CA
    Another big name in the industry, UC Davis prides itself in expertise in brewing science, technology and engineering. Similar to Siebel, this program is highly technical, but great for anyone who wants to brew on a commercial scale.
  4. College of DuPage Business of Craft Beer Program – Glen Ellyn, IL
    This program gives you a holistic view of the business side of craft beer. You won’t dive too deep into the brewing process itself, but will instead learn the history of beer, how to taste beer like an expert, branding and marketing beer, and much more. It’s great for anyone who loves beer, is interested in breaking into the industry or meeting incredible people who make up the industry locally in the Chicagoland area – but maybe I’m slightly biased, I am a graduate!
  5. Beer Essentials Cornell Certificate Program – Online
    Cornell University offers an online certificate program to provides a comprehensive overview on beer production, beer styles, sales, training, and establishing a beer program. This is another great option for someone interested in starting their own brewery or differentiating themselves to work on the business side of beer. The program is completely online and can be completed in just two months.

What amount of time/money are you willing to spend?

You can drink beer, read about beer, and immerse yourself in “beer culture” and learn a lot. You can also begin working in beer at an entry level position and learn even more. Beer programs come at different cost and time commitments. Give yourself a ceiling, research the schools that interest you most, and make the call. Like most schools, there are payment options to accommodate your needs.

Next Steps (because I refuse to call it homework)

If beer school interests you, stick around! I’ll be giving more tips on resources, options, and recommendations. The best recommendation I can give – what do you have to lose? If you’re reading this, you’re likely into beer and beer school will only widen you knowledge, network and view of the massive craft beer industry.

Grab a beer, sign up for the next course, and be prepared to be extra passionate for possibly the first time in the classroom.

See you next time, don’t be tardy!

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