KALISPELL – We know plenty of people like to drink locally made beers, or there wouldn’t be so many places to do so – almost 50 breweries in the Montana Breweries Association, located in 29 towns and cities, from Libby to Wibaux.

Guess what? That means somebody has to know how to make the beer all those people enjoy drinking.

With that – and a few other things – in mind, Flathead Valley Community College this fall will introduce Montana’s first brewing science and brewery operations program.

“With only a handful of these programs taught in the nation, FVCC’s program was developed with the input of many local craft brewing businesses to meet the workforce needs at the local and national levels,” the Kalispell school said in an announcement.

The two-year program will lead to an Associate of Applied Science degree.

The college said that, according to the Craft Brewers Association, the craft beer industry is growing at a rate of 17 percent annually, and now claims 20 percent of the market share in national beer sales.

A new craft brewery opens every 16 hours in the United States, and more than 115,000 jobs were created in the craft brewing industry in 2014 alone.

Montana, meantime, ranks in the top five states in craft breweries per capita and is widely considered one of the top destinations, along with states such as Vermont, Oregon and Colorado, for craft beer aficionados.

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FVCC’s 66-credit course over four semesters will include classes such as introduction to food and beverage fermentation, beer styles and sensory evaluation, hop selection and production, and environmental sustainability in brewing.

In all, 23 classes will be required to complete the degree, including an internship at a professional brewery.

“Graduates will have the skills to demonstrate the fundamental techniques of brewing beer and the understanding of the microbiology and biochemistry concepts involved in beer fermentation,” FVCC says. “The program also will focus on the production, selection and analysis of brewing materials, including malt and hops, evaluation of beer quality, classification of beer style and characteristics, brewery operations safety, packaging and handling technologies, practical aspects of the brewing process, and business principles, including compliance and licensing.”

The degree will be offered through FVCC’s Agriculture Program. Information about the required classes, and how to apply for the inaugural program that starts this fall, can be found at fvcc.edu/brewing.

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