Brewing program continues to expand


Connor Anderson tests the temperature of the mash. Mashing is the combinations of multiple grains and water with heat. James Stuck/The Observer.

Miles King, Staff Reporter

Posted on the wall of the Craft Brewing lab at CWU is the brewing process. To most students, the process can be somewhat confusing, but according to student Robert Renneberg, “if you can make Kraft mac and cheese, you can make beer.”

When the Craft Brewing certificate became available at CWU in 2009, there were 16 to 22 students enrolled. Fast forward to the present, and the program now has 40 students pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Craft Brewing or a one-year certificate study, according to Dr. Steve Wagner, director of the craft brewing program.

The full four year degree option has only been available since 2015. A few students have graduated from the program in just two years; although, they had earned another degree prior, said Wagner.

The program was developed with the help of Wagner, who is well educated throughout many fields. He has degrees in biology and chemistry from CWU, as well as a PhD in genetics from Oregon State University. This, along with a sabbatical to the technical university of Munich, one of the oldest brewing schools in the world, gave him all the background he needed to develop the curriculum for the program.

Wagner said he also researched other brewing programs across the country for reference. For example, the University of California-Davis’ fermentation science degree, as well as Oregon State University’s food science program. Lastly he consulted surveys of the industry, to nail down what employers want.

Robert Renneberg, a 27-year-old certificate student in the program, has just started his year-long study this quarter. Before attending CWU, he attended community college in Spokane. He currently lives in the Seattle area and carpools with another student to class. Renneberg was drawn to the program at CWU because he wants to own and operate his own brewery in the future.

Renneberg has already started brewing at home using an extraction system in a single six-gallon pot. He has also worked with brewer in Renton who used 100+ gallon tanks.

“It’s a lot of hurry up and wait,” Renneberg said, referring to the brewing process. He also expressed that the program has been “so far, so good,” and his fellow classmates have been very welcoming.

Mike Mccarthy, a 23 year-old craft brewing student pursuing the four year bachelor’s degree, started the program in the spring of 2016. Before attending CWU, Mccarthy went to the University of Washington but eventually dropped out. He developed an interest in craft brewing, working with hops for the last four years. Mccarthy was drawn to the program because it is one of the only craft brewing programs in the country.

Looking towards graduation in the spring, Mccarthy said he has not disliked anything about the program. He added that the business management courses as well as the chemistry courses have been extremely useful.

“I think this program will be very important for Central in the future,” Mccarthy said.

Currently, the brew lab is located roughly a mile north of campus in a warehouse building. Renneberg likes the location being out of the way.

“It allows us to maintain a brewing atmosphere,” Renneberg added.

In the future Renneberg hopes the funding for the program increases as the program continues to grow. Currently, the funding is enough for a smaller class, Renneberg said. Wagner would like to see professional courses added at the new CWU Sammamish campus, as well as an additional postgraduate or master’s program for craft brewing. Wagner also expressed the desire for a lab set-up working with the industry.