This past summer, students came from all over the U.S as well as Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Australia, to partake in San Diego State University’s Craft Beer Connoisseur Camp (intensive preparation for industry exams such as Cicerone® and BJCP) or Brewery Startup Camp (everything you need to know to launch a brewery). Each offered eight days of intensive instruction by local industry superstars such as “Dr.” Bill Sysak, George Thornton and Dave Adams; and one free day to explore San Diego.
The camps were a brand new offering from SDSU’s popular Business of Craft Beer program, which provides hands-on training for those looking to enter or already working in the brewing industry on the business side, rather than the brewing side of operations. To make the program more accessible to beer aficionados worldwide, SDSU launched Craft Beer Education Camp. Wildly enthusiastic reviews from students indicate the concept is a hit.
Kyle Slatter of Perth, Western Australia, answered a few questions about his experience at Brewery Startup Camp.
What is your connection to beer?
Before I came to SDSU, I had no qualification in anything to do with beer. I just loved to brew, talk about it, and of course share a couple of them.
How did you hear about SDSU’s Brewery Startup Camp?
I saw an ad for the camp in BYO magazine [Brew Your Own], and looked it up online. I saw the ad about three months before the camp started.
What was your goal in attending?
Basically just to walk away with a pathway I can follow to open my own brewery.
How did the camp meet your expectations?
The instructors came with a huge variety of experiences and advice from their own backgrounds which was so impressive.
Has your knowledge of craft beer been expanded exponentially?
Definitely. I am much better equipped now to promote a beer to the public. Skills like being able to completely take apart and clean a draught system or knowing how the very best breweries have their bar staff address guests are extremely valuable.
Were the offsite visits particularly illuminating – getting a behind-the-scenes look at the industry?
I was in San Diego for a total of 17 days and saw probably 40 different breweries and craft beer bars. Each one had their own vibe and I took ideas away from all of them.
Did you pick up any solid ideas about how to run your brewery?
The most important lesson I learned was to do everything — from marketing and sales to brewing — to the highest standard.
Can you speak to the caliber of the instructors?
They were all very different but all very helpful in their own ways. Even by her own admission, Debra‘s [Druthers, SDSU instructor and CPA specializing in craft beer industry tax issues] finance lesson was not as much fun as listening to Dave Adams speak about pouring beers, or watching Peacock [Michael] set up a jockey box — but was no less beneficial.
What did you like most about beer camp?
Definitely the relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Enjoying a few frothies with everyone in the camp was good fun.
Do you have a fond memory, small-world moment, or any other anecdote to share?
The way the rest of my classmates welcomed me to San Diego knowing how far I had traveled was pretty special; I was so grateful for that. I made a lot of new mates and I can’t wait to come back across and celebrate with them as they progress into starting their own breweries. We might even be able to get a couple of cheeky collaboration beers selling, and with how small the market share that craft beer has in Australia — that would be very exciting. And meeting Greg Koch [co-founder of Stone Brewing] was pretty surreal — what a legend.
Will you be staying in touch with your fellow campers?
Yeah a few of us have been keeping each other updated with our progress.
What did you do on your free day to explore San Diego?
I went on a bus tour to Alesmith, Amplified Ale Works, and Societe Brewing. Steve at Societe gave us a two-hour tour of the brew house and facilities, which was far and away the best tour I have ever been on. Then we went to Mission Brewery before a Padres game. Went to a few bars after the game and ended up back at my hostel about 3 a.m. The next day’s classes were a bit of a struggle.
Would you recommend SDSU’s Craft Beer Camp to others?
I highly recommend the camp to anyone with even a passing interest in craft beer. Since I got back to Perth, I scored a job at a brewery called Mash where I am now an assistant brewer, run the recently upgraded packaging line, and am part of the team that promotes our beer at festivals and on social media. I also work casually behind the bar when tour groups come by and want to know more about our beer styles. SDSU Craft Beer Camp no doubt helped me get the job.
Save the Dates for 2017: Craft Beer Connoisseur Camp is July 26–August 3, Brewery Startup Camp is August 4–12. For more information, please visit neverstoplearning.net/craftbeercamp.