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Course work: Diving into SDSU’s craft beer program

Instructor with university’s Business of Craft Beer program, explains why beer should be studied and not just drunk.

Michael Peacock’s Beer Camp. (Courtesy photo)

Traditionally an extracurricular college activity, beer has been part of the curriculum at UC San Diego and San Diego State University since 2013.

Michael Peacock, 56, an instructor with State’s Business of Craft Beer program, explained why beer should be studied and not just drunk.

PACIFIC: What’s the focus of State’s program?
MICHAEL PEACOCK: The various business aspects of the industry: beer styles, finance, distribution, (draft) systems, marketing, etc. The program caters to both industry people who want to add to their resume and those who are merely curious about the “beerification” of San Diego.

What is the coursework like?
Classes range in length from two to eight weeks. There are readings, in-class presentations and tests, including a final.

Courses are held at SDSU and at local breweries. In many classes, students taste beers to identify aromas and off flavors, important skills for anyone taking the Cicerone exam. The Cicerone certification is much like a sommelier certification in the wine industry.

Michael Peacock. (Courtesy photo)

Where does the faculty come from?
Our faculty is composed of industry experts, including business owners, brewers and a beverage law attorney. Our program was designed by instructors and advisory board members, some of whom belong to the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF) and the San Diego Hop Growers Association (SDHGA).

What are the most serious issues facing would-be brewers?
I think the biggest challenge is to be able to produce a quality product that people will drink. Once you have a core number of quality products, you need to be able to produce that same product consistently over and over again. Arguably, some breweries have skipped that step.

Another issue brewery owners face is understanding this business’s financial complexity. Whatever your business plan says and whatever the construction calendar says, it will cost more and take longer.

What trends do you see in craft beer?

In San Diego, we have front-row seats to the changing beer industry and have seen some very big moves. There is more selection on the shelves and, with over 5,000 breweries in the U.S., there seems to be a demand for this beverage.

Also, we are seeing “craft beverages” other than beer — cider, mead, kombucha, kefir, coffee — and some breweries are picking up on this trend. Modern Times has a coffee roaster on site and uses its coffee in its beers and sells its coffee brand. Collaborations between breweries and other craft beverage manufacturers allow for the rapid exposure of these products to a wider demographic.

Is craft beer a niche industry or is it central to San Diego’s economy?
Craft beer is beer. Beer is not niche and craft beer is here to stay. San Diego has been a welcoming community to craft beer and we are still experiencing growth that directly affects our economy daily.

When people hear “beer” and “college,” many think “kegger” and “toga party.” Is the image of craft beer changing?
The beer industry is evolving and consumers are developing a more educated palate. This is what is driving the industry and changing the “image” of beer.

In my class, I am very up front. This is all science. Physics, fluid dynamics, chemistry, math, engineering, etc. — we learn about it all. Henry’s Law, for instance, explains why carbonated beverages go flat. So let’s discuss that over a few beers.

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