Who says a thirst for knowledge and a thirst for good beer are mutually exclusive? Portland State has chosen to legitimize the relationship between college and beer with a new Business of Craft Brewing online program, which was announced in March and begins this fall. A growing wait-list—and an impressive turnout at a business briefing at The Commons Brewery last week—shows that the program is already a big hit.
Who says a thirst for knowledge and a thirst for good beer are mutually exclusive?
Portland State has chosen to legitimize the relationship between college and beer with a new Business of Craft Brewing online program, which was announced in March and begins this fall. A growing wait-list—and an impressive turnout at a business briefing at The Commons Brewery last week—shows that the program is already a big hit.
“How many people here are signed up for our craft brewing program?” Program Director Mellie Pullman asked as she addressed the large audience from atop a bourbon barrel. Several people raised one hand while holding a glass of beer in the other.
With a cap of only 60 students per class, and with 15 seats reserved strictly for PSU students and 45 open to the public, the first series of courses are already completely filled up.
“When we first did a business plan we said in five years we might have 40 people in the class—but we had 40 people by the first week,” Pullman said with awe and pride.
Oregon has become a haven for beer aficionados with its 137 breweries, 51 of which are in Portland alone. While it’s obvious that a successful craft brewer must have a passion for good beer, Pullman and her team recognize that even the best beer-maker must have good business sense.
“There’s so many innovative businesses that are springing up, and that’s the exciting part of living in Portland. I’m excited for Portland State to help these people with their business skills,” she said.
Pullman got into the brewery business during what she referred to as the “first wave” of craft brewing, back when the Widmer brothers were still trying to make a name for themselves. While they went on to find huge success, Pullman eventually migrated out of the business to pursue a career in education. With the brewing program, she’s come full circle from the trials and tribulations she experienced while operating her own brewery.
“People who are starting today have a lot more of a network to work with,” Pullman said. “I blew up a tank of stout, [and] I duct-taped a brewery together to keep it functioning—back in the days when there were no people to call on.”
Local brewers such as The Commons Brewery owner Mike Wright have a great deal of insight to share and will be featured in the program’s four courses. To give the audience a taste of what to expect, Wright divulged his experiences running a successful brewing business, which he explained began inside his garage in 2009.
During a question-and-answer session, one audience member asked what Wright’s secret to success was. With a smile on his face, he replied simply, “Making really good beer.”
The curriculum for the certificate program will include four eight-week online courses: “Basic Business for Craft Beverages,” “Finance and Accounting,” “Business Management” and “Strategic Marketing.” The program ends with an optional “Craft Beverage Immersion Weekend,” where participants have the opportunity to tour the breweries they’ve studied.
Patrick Walsh and Joe Jackson, who recently graduated from the School of Business Administration’s Supply and Logistics Management program, are interns for the craft brewing program and were instrumental in orchestrating the course curriculum.
“We set up interviews for local brewers, hop farmers, equipment manufacturers and malting companies around the area so we could get a full-scope business environment read,” Walsh said.
“Then, we brainstormed with professor Pullman what…topics we could pull out of the interviews or the classes,” Jackson added.
In the field, they’ve been making mini documentaries out of the interviews, with hopes of creating an interesting way of delivering class content. Currently, they have a library of about 15 videos, and more are in production.
Both interns’ experiences so far have been rewarding and beneficial to their future careers in the brewing industry. Walsh was offered a full-time position with one of the brewing equipment businesses the two interviewed, and Jackson is being considered for an internship with Rogue Ales.
As the first class approaches, news of the program has spread internationally. Pullman explained that beer blogs and education blogs have spread news of the program and attracted people from around the world. Some enrollees come from as far as New Zealand, Japan and Ireland.
“If you’re making craft beer, you should follow what’s going on in Oregon,” Pullman explained. “People know that we’re one of the meccas for breweries.”
For more information about the program, go to pdx.edu/cepe/bcb.