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.
Eric Lindemann, who flew in from Las Vegas, Nevada, shares his experience at Brewery Startup Camp.
What is your connection to beer?
I’ve been a home brewer for 16 years and I’m starting the second year of the Beer Judge Certification program. I’m also a member of SNFU (Southern Nevada Fermentation Union), the Nevada Beer Lovers, and the Nevada Brew Crew — we set up and run the beer festivals in Las Vegas, Boulder City and Henderson.
How did you hear about SDSU’s Brewery Startup Camp?
The SNFU president was notified of open seats for any members, from the contact for our BJC program.
What was your goal in attending?
Learn more of the legal side of brewery ownership, and drink good craft beer!
How did the camp meet your expectations?
Very well. There was lots of insider information from people who have followed their brewing dreams. Each and every one of the instructors did something different before they followed their dreams. Tells me it can be done!
Has your knowledge of craft beer been expanded exponentially?
Craft beer, no. Like most home brewers, I know quite a bit after 16 years but it’s always good to learn more. But how to start up and run a brewery, YES!!!
Were the offsite visits particularly illuminating – getting a behind-the-scenes look at the industry?
Yes. It’s always good to see the many different ways breweries are run from one to another. No two are really run the same.
Did you pick up any solid foundational ideas about how to run your brewery?
Yes. The legal side of the business, marketing, distributing, and the fact that you can’t do it alone. You will need help or you will fail.
Can you speak to the caliber of the instructors?
We lucked out!!! There were lots of very knowledgeable instructors, and each one of them liked to share what they know in detail. All we had to do is ask.
What did you like most about beer camp?
Talking to the brewery owners and other brewers about the little stuff. Learning how you (or your employees) should be dealing with your customers. Being in a room with people all around the world that love brewing as much as I do.
Do you have a fond memory, small-world moment, or any other anecdote to share?
The day at Stone Brewing headquarters and talking with not only the head of distributing (that was an eye-opening moment) but when Greg [Koch, co-founder and chairman] walked in and to hear his stories.
Will you be staying in touch with your fellow campers?
Oh yes, friendships made for a lifetime!! As soon as one of us opens a brewery, we will be there to celebrate following their dreams with them.
What did you do on your free day to explore San Diego?
I went on the brewery tour! What else would you do on a free day in San Diego?
Would you recommend SDSU’s Craft Beer Camp to others?
Not only would I, but I have been telling my stories to my brewing community here in Vegas and they now want to attend. This is not a “how to brew” class but rather a great resource to fill in the gaps from the people who live it! This is not just for “if” you want to start a brewery but if you ever want to work in one, this class is a must. You should know all it takes to run one, not just punch the clock and get a paycheck. When working at a brewery, it should be more of a family/village, not just a job.
From the day I signed up and registered, there was communication from two helpful ladies (the behind-the-scenes people that never get the credit they deserve). They showed up and set up the room every day, they arranged all of the transportation needed, they made sure each one of us had everything we needed in class and out, and they made sure the instructors were taken care of as well.
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.