Erie Community College wants to produce brewmasters

August 22, 2014 Updated Aug 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM EDT

By Dan Miner, Reporter- Business First

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Erie Community College wants to produce brewmasters

August 22, 2014 Updated Aug 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM EDT


The national craft beer explosion has hit Buffalo in a big way, with a number of projects that have either recently opened or are in the works.

But just like any industry, craft beer needs a workforce pipeline, and many local brewers look to Canada for training programs.

That's why Erie Community College faculty Donald Spasiano and Eric Paner are working on bringing that training closer to home.

ECC will soon submit an application to the state Education Department to offer a certificate in Brewing Science and Service, with the goal of enrolling students by fall 2015.

The full-time, one-year program will include a total of 31 credit hours and offer courses such as Intro to Brewing, Brewing Microbiology, Filtration and Finishing, and Sensory Evaluation. It will also include an internship course with a local brewer.

"We're making them aware of what it takes to produce a good quality product," said Spasiano, a professor.

The courses will be offered online and at ECC's Amherst campus.

Spasiano and Paner invited 25 local brewers to a symposium last year at Pettibones Grille and 16 showed up. Their insight forms the backbone of the program.

The certificate will offer a range of employment possibilities well beyond local breweries, Spasiano said. Beer distributors, supermarket chains, retail beer-sellers and even the service industry are among the sectors clamoring for people with deep knowledge of the brewing industry.

"The reason I'm trying to get this up and running is because there are plenty of employment opportunities available not only in Western New York but throughout the entire country," Spasiano said.

The initial students are expected to be those who are at least a few years removed from college and who have already experimented with home-brewing, so on-campus courses will be offered later in the day.

Spasiano said his "pie-in-the-sky" ambition for the program is to eventually find funding for a lab with brewing casts so that students can get a hands-on experience on campus.

"It would be great to produce a product and to generate revenue for the curriculum and college," he said. "But we have to get the program in place first."

The idea is partly motivated by the program at Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which has a brewmaster program with a lab and sells the beer it produces.

He also said the college is giving long-term consideration to a program in distilling liquor, given the similar rise in popularity in that industry in recent years.