What if you could receive university credits for drinking really good beer? Thatâ€™s soon to become a reality at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Beginning this September, KPU will launch a two-year diploma program for students who love craft beer â€“ and lots of it.
The program is the first of its kind in B.C. and only the third in Canada.
The full-time brewing and brewery operations program, soon to be offered at KPUâ€™s Langley campus inside a specially designed brew laboratory, will put students through classes and hands-on labs where theyâ€™ll learn the ins and outs of craft beer.
Classes will cover a range of topics from the history of brewing, to advanced filtration, and even product sales and promotions.
Students will have the chance to create their own signature brews and to have the fruits of their labour served in on-campus student restaurants and pubs â€“ and down the line, possibly even in local liquor stores.
Elizabeth Worobec, KPUâ€™s dean of science and horticulture, said the response so far has been â€œfast and furious.â€
â€œWe were originally looking at putting together a bit of a wine culture-type program, but just in talking to local brewers, we knew weâ€™d found a gold mine and a huge desireâ€¦ for high-quality staff to come into their employ,â€ Worobec said.
â€œIt really was about noticing the huge increase in the craft brewing industry, not only in B.C., but in the (U.S.) Pacific Northwest. This really tipped the scales toward the brewery program.â€
According to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, microbreweries have seen an average growth in sales of more than 20 per cent a year since 2006.
Microbreweries, which have an annual production of less than 160,000 hectolitres, saw $169.7 million in sales between September 2012 and September 2013.
Thatâ€™s more than double the $79.7 million sold between September 2008 and September 2009.
Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, is among industry experts approached by KPU in the early stages to be a part of an advisory board steering the program.
â€œGiven the explosion of craft brewing in B.C., it was so encouraging to see how they went to the industry to ask what we needed,â€ Beattie said.
The idea began to take solid shape in August, just as Liberal cabinet minister John Yap announced B.C. would review its liquor policies.
By the fall, the program had been approved by the schoolâ€™s board of governors.
â€œFor us, it was serendipity,â€ Worobec said of how quickly things came together. â€œTo see the changes [in the industry] being made already is so, so encouraging.â€
– Stephanie Ip is a Vancouver Province reporter.
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