Craft brewing gets a second chance

Jessica Perez

Jessica Perez, News Director

Earlier this year, the dean ordered the craft brewing program to stop recruiting students. Fears began to circulate that the program would be shut down. Then the program lost their facility in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this month the craft brewing program was told they could once again start recruiting students for fall 2021. 

The College of Sciences considered ending the program due to their low enrollment numbers in classes and their need to cut costs. 

Craft Brewing Professor Eric Foss said the order from the dean to stop enrolling students wasn’t a surprise, however it was off putting. 

“It did shake us up, especially losing the facility,” Foss said.

Foss said the program formed agreements with their industry partners in order to get students hands-on experience. 

“I call this our nomadic model because we had a home and now we just have to live on other people’s couches,” Foss said. 

When news of the program shutting down made its way to alumni and local breweries, they decided to write letters to help the program stay open. 

Craft Brewing Director Eric Graham believes the letters helped convince the dean to keep the program going.

“It was wonderful and I realize what it takes to write a letter,” Graham said. “It’s not a trivial task.”

Graham said now that they know the program has a future, the hard work now begins.

“Now that we have a future, we’ve hit the ground running,” Graham said.

Several changes are coming to the program’s curriculum. Graham said they want to make classes that were previously only available to craft brewing majors available to all students in hopes class enrollment will increase. 

“I think if we go on this path, opening up classes to students, offering more interesting classes… I think with our plan we’re going to  be in pretty good shape,” Graham said. 

They will also modify the prerequisites for the craft brewing program so that it is easier for students. However, the biggest change to come involves collaborating with other programs on campus. One of these programs is wine studies.

“We can do science really well, marketing, business things… we’re not so good at,” Graham said. “So we are sending our beer students to the wine program to learn those skills.”

Graham said ideally the wine studies program will send their students to craft brewing classes to get hands on experience. 

According to Graham, the craft brewing program at CWU is one of the only programs on the west coast that offers a four-year degree for brewing. 

For this reason, it is important to have it on campus. 

“We are ground zero for a lot of the craft brewing industry,” Graham said.

Graham and Foss both mentioned that it is important to have the program on campus because the majority of hops in the United States comes from Yakima.

There is also a high demand for students in the program, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are drinking more,” Foss said.

According to Graham, the program has a 100% placement rate, meaning breweries reach out to them constantly looking to hire students who graduated from the program.

“We’re more often having to say no you have to wait until they graduate,” Graham said. 

If you’re interested in the craft brewing program you have find more information on them in the link below.