Beer is more popular than ever in the United States. Here in Albuquerque, many breweries have been trying to cash in on the recent trends. This has inspired the University of New Mexico’s neighbor, Central New Mexico Community College, to offer students an education in brewing and beverage management.
The Brewing and Beverage Management associate degree program at CNM was designed to help residents get in the brewing trade, and possibly start their own business. The program is spread out over two-terms — one term focuses exclusively on beer brewing, the other focuses on restaurant management, and other beverages such as wine.
Nick Jones, the professor who handles most of the first-term courses for this program, said that professional beer drinking is much different than drinking for pleasure.
“You shouldn’t join this program if you plan (to) keep enjoying yourself when you go out,” Jones said.
“We want our students to think like brewers — we want them to look for flaws in drinks first. Then ways to remove them or dress them up. I send so many beers back when I try a new brewery’s products, (and) I can’t imagine anyone would find that very fun,” he said.
Jones said learning about the flavoring is just one of the downsides of the trade, and that many of his alumni can confirm this fact.
Jones described the process of training students to taste like professional brewers. “We give them a beer with some ‘flavoring.’ Not tasteful flavors, but ones commonly found in water supplies. Quite a few brewers have to put up with them,” Jones said.
Other than the changes to your taste buds, the brewing and beverage management program also trains students in how to use the equipment needed in brewing.
“The school has its own still. Students make, taste and classify the beers,” Jones said. “Classifying the beers is the hardest part, but one of the most important. It’s how you know where to put a beer in a store or a menu or a competition, as well as how to present it to the customer.”
Students from the program won an award this year through the Open College Beer Championship. Students brewed two batches and sent the second one for testing — they won first place for IPAs and second place for stout.
CNM can only brew in 3-gallon batches right now. “The purpose of the program is training an education. We do have an on-campus venue for selling food, however, we simply cannot produce enough to sell even there at this moment.” Jones said.
Nevertheless, the program’s faculty is eager to see it expand.
“Our on-campus bistro is for culinary students to work in and test their skills in a setting very similar to an actual restaurant,” Jones said. “If we’re able to, this is where we’d like to start selling our beers.”
Unlike other culinary programs at CNM, the brewing and beverage management students can only taste-test their products in class, and only learn about the market end of the brewing trade during their second term courses.
“We do have this associate’s degree divided into two full terms of 18 credit hours. That’s slightly more than other students in similar programs,” Jones said. “Not being in the Bistro like other culinary (programs) isn’t hurting our program, it’s just not helping it.”
The brewing and beverage management degree was created by and large for the community to benefit off of. “While we do get quite a few full-time students, I’m also always happy to see an experienced restaurant worker come into the program, even if it is part-time,” Jones said.
The brewing and beverage management program is currently open for enrollment to the public.
Donald Amble is a freelance news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Deambler.