The SPSCC Brewing and Distilling program is the first of its kind in the nation and allows students to learn all stages of the production process including product development, packaging and label design. With the first class started in 2018, students of the program will graduate with knowledge of the brewing industry and with practical experience in creating new beverages. As the program grows and a permanent learning facility is built in Tumwater, the SPSCC program also hopes to be a resource of knowledge for other working breweries and distilleries.
As the first Associate’s Degree for brewing and distilling, the SPSCC program has been in development for five years. Lead by SPSCC President, Dr. Timothy Stokes, the effort to get the program off the ground culminated with the inaugural class of 25 students beginning courses in the fall of 2018.
Because of the hybrid model of the program, which takes places partially online and partially through in-person classes, the schedule is flexible and can accommodate many different lifestyles and experience levels from novices to veteran home brewers. The hybrid model allows potential students who have full-time jobs or other obligations the chance to enroll, because they would not have to be on campus for hours each day. “We have folks who are in their current career, maybe have been in that career for over 20 years, but they’re looking for what their next stage is going to look like,” says Director of Craft Brewing and Distilling at SPSCC, Frank Addeo. “By opening up the hybrid model, as well as offering educational opportunities that are far more expansive than a typical brew program, I think it a perfect mixture to get a wide range of people with a lot of different interests.”
The coursework is diverse and explores all facets of the brewing and distilling industry. The first year of the program focuses on the basic information and building a foundation in brewing. Year two, students put theory into practice and will work on creating actual products, packaging and design.
The goal is for students to be well-rounded in regards to product development, production, lab work, packaging, business and design so that they can be competitive candidates in the craft brewing and distilling industry. Business knowledge is an emphasis in the program through required business and entrepreneurial classes. “One thing that I think is often overlooked in a lot of different brew programs is understanding business law, business structure and understanding how to look at the books of a small office startup,” explains Addeo.
Another key portion of the program is understanding raw ingredients, the chemistry behind them and using that knowledge to create new drink ideas.
“We have a raw ingredients series where students take classes in everything from hops and botanicals to fruit and honey for the cider and mead end of things,” says Addeo. “Currently, they’re taking a class on grains and malt. What we’re trying to do is train people to develop new kinds of beverages. That is always going to be of value, having people with many different experiences to bring to the table because that’s what creates innovation.”
As the need grows for brewing industry professionals, SPSCC wants their students to be competitive candidates in all areas of the industry upon graduation. “A main priority for us are our students and making sure they get the best education they can receive to get into the industry,” says Addeo. “There are a lot of breweries, cideries and distilleries that are opening up in the area, and there will be more to come. We want to make sure that the students are going to be sought after as employees.”
Classes are currently being held on the main SPSCC campus, but in development, is a permanent learning space in the new Tumwater Craft District, situated near other breweries and distilleries that are moving into town. The eventual goal for the program is to not just prepare students for a career in the beer and cider industry, but also serve as a resource for established breweries seeking continuing education. That support can include providing equipment, answering questions about quality control, or offering lab space.
To connect with local breweries, the SPSCC Foundation created the Clipper Crawl event, which will feature multiple brewing producers. The event takes place at the Olympia County & Golf Club on June 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sponsored by Heritage Bank and WSECU, the Clipper Crawl will serve new beverages crafted by businesses close to the SPSCC program. The program is hoping that this event can continue annually and eventually students can contribute their own creations. “We want to attract folks who are supporters of the beer and cider industry here in the area and get them to come out to celebrate and enjoy these local producers,” says Addeo.
The Clipper Crawl will host a number of local breweries, including Three Magnets Brewing Co., Fish Brewing, Mount Olympus, Singing Hops Brewing Company, and Well 80 Brewpub. Outside of beer, Chelsea Farms will be in attendance with their mobile raw oyster bar and Batdorf & Bronson will be on hand serving coffee. There will also be live music and games for everyone attending.
To learn more about the SPSCC Brewing and Distilling program and the Clipper Crawl, visit the SPSCC Foundation website.