WMU, Kalamazoo Valley to Offer Degree in Craft Beer Brewing

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With Michigan’s craft brewing industry nearing a total economic impact of $609 million in 2014, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College will launch this fall what they say is the nation’s first sustainable brewing degree.

“The growth of the brewing industry has been accompanied by growth in ancillary and support industries such as distributors, hops farms, and malting houses,” says Dean McCurdy, associate vice president at Kalamazoo Valley. "We plan to position Kalamazoo as an education destination for this rapidly growing employment and entrepreneurial phenomenon."

The curriculum will address the science of brewing (i.e., chemistry, biosciences, physics, and environmental science) as well as a series of interdisciplinary courses that address sustainability, sales and marketing, and the relationship between food, beverages, and culture throughout history.

As part of the program, students will have the opportunity to earn a certificate or associate degree at Kalamazoo Valley, and move on to a Bachelor of Science degree at Western Michigan University. Regardless of the student pathway, earning a bachelor's degree will require 96 credit hours, including the 30-hour certificate.

The new program was developed with the help of a former Coors brewer as well as input from an external advisory board that includes 10 of Michigan's top craft brewers, says Edwin A. Martini, associate dean in WMU's College of Arts and Sciences.

“Knowing that the craft beer industry is key to our community and state's economic development, we enlisted the help of our industry advisors and designed a rigorous, science-based degree program that will help craft brewers address big environmental issues as they use the very best of brewing art and science in a program that can only be described as meeting the industry's gold standard,” Martini says.

He adds that the program will address key issues affecting the industry, including water use and recovery.

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