In fall 2017, South Puget Sound Community College will launch craft brewing, cider making and distilling programs. The curriculum is designed to equip students with an understanding of the science and craft of beverage creation and a solid footing in business fundamentals, production and regulation. “The students who come out of it will be able to get careers both locally and around the nation,” says Kelly Green, director of public relations. The two-year degree programs, which join SPSCC’s established culinary and pastry arts options, are now accepting applications. The school is discussing distance-learning options.
Green says SPSCC is starting the programs because craft beverages are booming and “Washington State is already a leader in all of these industries.” In brewing, for instance, our state is home to more than 300 of the nation’s 5,000-plus breweries, second only to California. The Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater area has seen a surge of brewery openings in recent years. More are slated to launch in the coming months. The college’s community partners have also noticed the trend and see a connection to Thurston County’s past. When the Olympia Brewing facility shuttered in 2003, the resulting void eventually inspired the City of Tumwater, Port of Olympia and Thurston Economic Development Council, among others, to plan a resurgence by positioning the area as a craft-beverage hub.
Education will be a key component to that success. Industry professionals are overseeing SPSCC’s plans. Local experts, including representatives from Fish Brewing Company, Sandstone Distillery and Whitewood Cider, sit on an advisory board for the new programs. Board chair Casey Sobol, co-founder of Top Rung Brewing Company, says they’re developing the curriculum with an eye toward Walla Walla’s viticulture program and Bend, Oregon’s craft-beer scene. Prime resources make this area a natural fit for craft-beverage makers and for tourists. “There are huge opportunities down here,” Sobol says. For one, “we have the Artesian well water and the Nisqually watershed. Our water is phenomenal.”
Green points out the area also has significant agricultural resources, including a new focus on quality grains. They’re hoping the combination will be a magnet for beverage-focused visitors and new business. “Not only will we have a concentration of people and expertise,” says Green, “we’ll also have this quality education program creating a steady flow of qualified workers with the skills that business owners need. Who wouldn’t want to be in the backyard of that?”
What: craft brewing and distilling programs
Where: South Puget Sound Community College,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia
When: fall 2017 semester begins Monday, Sept. 18
Learn more: 360-596-5200 | SPSCC