Two years ago, Michael Carter moved to San Diego from Boston with his wife, in search of a new career. He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do, but as an avocational home brewer, he was excited to learn about the Business of Craft Beer certificate program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies.
Fast forward to 2014, and Michael and 26 other students will soon celebrate their status as the program’s first-ever graduating class. Certificates will be awarded, the popular program’s instructors will speak, and beer will flow.
What do you like about SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer certificate program?
Beside the fact that it’s every beer lover’s dream? I appreciate that it’s a multi-class program taught by some of the heavy hitters in the craft beer world. You can pick and choose those classes that appeal to your level of interest in the industry, and each of our instructors has been very approachable both in and outside of class.
I love the networking that the program has inspired. Not unlike kindergarten, all of us started out keeping to ourselves, yet a few classes in and we are now sharing ideas and possible ventures with each other. Networking might very well be the most valuable part of the program.
How do you plan on applying the knowledge you gained to your career?
Everyone’s fantasy is to open a brewery but there are many pieces to that puzzle. Taking these classes opens new worlds to certain niches that might be under-served. Every one of us taking these classes has different goals, timetables and resources. I myself am looking to fill a need somewhere in the industry. Above all, we are the new “Craft Beer Ambassadors” and our real job is to educate the populace on the greatness of craft beer.
What pearls of wisdom did you come away with in Exploring Craft Beer, Beer Styles, Brewery Startup, or some of the other classes?
The one big “pearl” is that nobody knows everything about beer. Some might have a larger knowledge base but there is always room to improve and new things to learn. Every class I’ve taken has given me more tools in my tool box. Beer Styles and Craft Beer and Food Pairing have absolutely blown me away in new knowledge. Ask any student about those two classes and you’ll see their eyes open wide with excitement and they’ll be frothing at the mouth trying to tell you about all the great information they learned.
Another pearl … you have to work your tail off to make it in this business.
How do you think the networking aspect of the program will benefit you?
Again, I think that the networking aspect of this program might be its greatest strength. The teachers are very open and willing to share extra knowledge and information with you. I have met with a few of them outside of class to discuss ideas concerning my future in the industry and I am amazed at how transparent they are concerning their operations.
Sitting in a class with up to 50 other students with varied backgrounds and similar interests is quite exciting. We have people working on opening new breweries, people growing hops, some who work designing and installing draft systems, and others who are CPAs working for the craft beer industry. Remember those puzzle pieces I mentioned earlier? All those pieces are readily available to anyone of us because of this program. We enjoy working with each other and each of us is excited to help one another at any time.
Would you recommend the Business of Craft Beer program to others?
Absolutely I would! Even if you don’t have any plans to enter this business, the knowledge gained about beer styles, and food and beer pairing alone is worth it. If you’re planning on finding a spot in the business, I would think of this program as invaluable in acting as your own personal “incubator.”
Who do you look up to in the industry? Any teachers or advisors here?
I appreciate all of the teachers I have had in this program. These are the people who have taken the blind leap and helped to create the most dynamic beer region in the world. Take the accumulated pure knowledge of Dr. Bill Sysak and the indefatigable passion of Scot Blair, and couple that with the years of experience of Justin Evelyn along with the bullnose drive of Matt Johnson, and you have the blueprint for a successful business education. I look up to each and every one of them and I’m sure my fellow classmates would harbor the same level of respect for them as well.
Any brewery or brewing plans in your future?
I am in a unique position as a graduate of this program. My children are grown and living their own lives, and my wife and I are still young enough to do whatever we want. I am very observant concerning the trends of the region and industry, and I might be looking to invest in a young start-up brewery that could use a little help. I have a degree in communications and a business background, and my early years were spent in the food & beverage industry. There are a number of great craft beer businesses here that I would be interested in joining.
How has the Business of Craft Beer certificate program changed your life?
To be afforded the opportunity to attend this type of program located in the most dynamic craft beer region of the world has been a stroke of luck. My wife and I had no idea how huge the craft beer industry was out here. Coming out here I was looking for something new to do for a career. Like a number of fellow program students, I did some home brewing back East and being here has reignited that flame to a larger degree. When I heard about the Business of Craft Beer program starting at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, I leapt at the opportunity to join. Through this program I’ve met some new friends and possibly some new business associates. More so, how it has changed my life, is that I drink much better beer here than I ever did on the East Coast. That point alone has been life changing!