Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Brewery Program Aiding Industry

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Sam Zomer

Michigan’s growing craft brewery industry is getting a huge boost thanks to the creation of Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s sustainable brewing program that is consistently winning awards for the beer its students develop.

In just September alone, students twice excelled in competitions. They won one gold and two silver medals, with the program placing fourth overall, in the U.S. Open College Beer Championship, a contest for colleges and universities with brewing courses.

Students also earned a bronze medal from the internationally acclaimed Great American Beer Festival Competition, in which the best breweries and craft beer industry greats compete. Their entry ranked third out of 117 entries.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said sustainable brewing instructor Brian Lindberg, referring to the Great American Beer Festival Competition. “Only seven medals went to Michigan breweries and we were one of them.”

Begun in fall 2015, Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Kalsec Center for Sustainable Brewing is housed in downtown Kalamazoo in its Marilyn J. Schlack Culinary and Allied Health Building. It is one of the few programs of its kind in the nation, and is endorsed by the Masters Brewing Association of the Americas to teach brewing. Students can enroll in a certificate program that can be completed in one year if one chooses to attend full-time. Two associate degree programs are also available.

West Michigan has one of the country’s highest per-capita densities of craft brewers, and the Kalsec Center for Sustainable Brewing is poised to help them thrive. It was developed in consultation with master brewers to ensure its relevancy, completeness and timeliness. Input was also obtained from an expanding external advisory board that includes many of the state’s top craft brewers and industry partners.

The rigorous, comprehensive program is science-based. This emphasis allows the college to train a highly skilled workforce capable of assuming the wide span of professional positions in the brewing business, from taproom managers to brewery lab technicians and brewery owners. The program even has its own brewery, ensuring lots of hands-on experiences.

Associate degree graduates wishing to move on to a four-year school can receive further brewery training by transferring to Western Michigan University or Ferris State University under cooperative agreements Kalamazoo Valley has with them. Students can choose either the bachelor’s in brewery operations or brewery science at WMU, or a bachelor’s in hospitality management with an emphasis on the brewing industry at Ferris.

For more about the sustainable brewing program at Kalamazoo Valley, visit kvcc.edu/brewing.

Established in 1966, Kalamazoo Valley Community College offers certificate programs in more than 50 areas of study and associate degrees in 60 others. These include business, healthcare, human and public service, and technical occupations, culinary arts and brewing training. It has four Kalamazoo, Mich., locations, including the Texas Township Campus, the Groves Campus, the Arcadia Commons Campus and the Bronson Healthy Living Campus. Classes are available during the day, evening, online and weekends.

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