ASHEVILLE NC – A-B Tech Community College has announced the creation of The Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast, a premier education destination to meet the needs of the rapidly-growing beverage industry in the region.
“The job of the community college is to find the local need and fill it. Each region has its own market niche,” said Dr. Hank Dunn, A-B Tech President. “Craft beverages are a big business in the area. We think it will be an incredible boon to the area and will grow exponentially.”
The College plans to offer a two-year degree starting in fall 2013 in brewing, distillation and fermentation to teach the science and technical art of craft beverages. A large component of the process will require STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. There will also be a business track to address marketing, events and tasting room management to provide a comprehensive education to support the beverage industry.
The growth of the beverage industry in Western North Carolina was led by the Biltmore Estate Winery, the world’s most visited winery. Now the region is welcoming the production facilities of New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues breweries, joining Asheville’s own Highland Brewery and other microbreweries in the area.
“Big things are happening here in North Carolina,” said Sheila Tillman, Associate Dean of Hospitality Education at A-B Tech. In addition to the Biltmore winery and the major craft brewers, Western North Carolina is also the home of three distilleries.
“We are not the Northern California wine country. We are not St. Louis, known for its beer. We are not Kentucky, home of whiskey,” said Tillman. “We are finding ourselves in the situation of supporting a growing job force of not one part of the beverage industry, but we have three major industries simultaneously coming here. “
A-B Tech will not only provide a two-year degree, but continuing education and workforce development in the beverage industry through hands-on training in a fermentation facility designed specifically for brewing, winemaking and distillation at the College’s Enka site.
Training will cover the multifaceted processes associated with craft beverages, including agriculture for hops and grape vines, marketing, sales and supplier organizations, restaurants and hotels and new business development.
Scott Adams, Director of The Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast, said there are a few places to study beer in the area, but nothing as comprehensive that covers brewing, fermentation and distilling. “Our goal is to get people trained and in the jobs where they are needed,” he said.