While large four-year institutions like the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University offer courses on aspects of the brewing industry, one of the most interesting programs is found at a community college.
MiraCosta’s BrewTech is one of only four programs in the United States to be recognized by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.
“Our focus is from grain to glass,” said Carisa Chavez, director of the 18-week program, where hands-on experience in an on-campus brewery is augmented by robust internships. “We get you in, we get you brewing, we get you out.”
Students, placed in six-person teams, spend 100 hours in the campus lab, brewing up to 12 beers. They also embark on 80-hour internships at Southern California breweries, such as Pure Project, Belching Beaver, Booze Brothers and Culver Beer Co.
This sort of workplace exposure is invaluable, said Angela O’Brien, a fall 2020 BrewTech student.
“During the course, I started out as an intern” at Booze Brothers, she said. “I just never left.”
Offered a full-time job at that Vista brewery in January 2021, she is now operations manager there.
Carrigan Henkel also owes his current job to BrewTech. Enrolled in the original class in spring 2019, he met another student, Shawn Haven, who hoped to found his own brewery. Haven’s dream was realized earlier this year when he opened Los Molinos Beer Co. in San Clemente.
Los Molinos’ head brewer? Carrigan Henkel.
“I got all the experience I needed from MiraCosta,” Henkel said. “And the opportunity came from there as well.”
In the process of moving from its original Oceanside site to a new lab in Carlsbad, BrewTech is now taking applications for its 2023 courses.
BrewTech stresses “hard skills,” like the chemistry of brewing, and “soft skills,” such as workplace safety, punctuality and inter-personal communications.
“We want to get them to show up on time — and stay off their cell phones,” Chavez said.
Cell phones? Chavez sighed, then nodded. “That’s huge.”