On a balmy summer night in August, 27 students hoisted their chilled glasses and made a toast as they became the first-ever certificate holders in the new SDSU College of Extended Studies Business of Craft Beer program.
Launched in the fall of 2013 in response to San Diego’s burgeoning craft beer industry, the program 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.
All courses were developed with input from the San Diego Brewers Guild to ensure the most relevant training, and the instructors and advisory board members are a who’s who of local craft-beer industry superstars. They include Greg Koch, CEO/co-founder and certified Cicerone,® Stone Brewing Co.; “Dr.” Bill Sysak, craft beer ambassador and certified Cicerone,® Stone Brewing Co.; Claudia Faulk, co-founder, Aztec Brewing; and Scot Blair, CEO/co-founder and certified Cicerone®, Monkey Paw Brewing, Hamiltons, and Small Bar.
“We began promoting the program in May of 2013 at various craft beer festivals and San Diego Brewers Guild meetings and it’s been incredibly successful,” said program Director Giana Rodriguez. “Initial registrations sold out in eight hours, and this fall’s Exploring Craft Beer course sold out in 48 minutes. So we opened another section to accommodate the 108 registered students. So far the program has had more than 350 students – a great mix of craft beer and hospitality industry employees as well as craft beer enthusiasts and home brewers looking to move into the industry.”
The growth of this exciting program has paralleled the robust growth of the craft beer industry in San Diego, which is now considered one of the top beer towns in the country. The program has also supported the growth of the Cicerone® program, as it prepares students to pass the first- and second-level Cicerone® Certification.
“This past year, San Diego placed second behind Chicago as the state with the most first-level Cicerone® certifications, with approximately 600 awarded and 125 of those earned by our students after completion of the initial course,” said Rodriguez. “We’ve had several students secure jobs in the industry through networking with instructors and at craft beer events. The craft beer community has been incredibly supportive and very enthusiastic about bringing this education component into their breweries. We have also partnered with local restaurants to help promote small local businesses.”
Students of the Business of Beer Professional Certificate Program can complete the six-course Essential Certificate or the nine-course Expanded Certificate at their own pace. Look for new courses next year as this popular program continues to grow to fit the needs of students and the community.
What is a Cicerone®?
“Cicerone” is a trademarked term used to designate those with a demonstrated expertise in beer service. The first of the three levels of certification is “Certified Beer Server,” which typically takes eight hours of study, and a written exam.
The next level, Certified Cicerone,® requires a rigorous four-hour testing: a tasting portion to identify beer styles, flaws and service problems; and an extensive written exam covering beer service and draft systems, beer styles, brewing, and pairing beer with food. Only about 200 individuals pass this second-level certification each year.
The Master Cicerone® exam involves two full days of examinations including 12 hours of written essay questions, 2 hours of blind tasting, and 2 hours of oral examination by industry experts. Only one or two individuals typically pass the Master Cicerone® exam each year.
Learn more at cicerone.org.