The recently passed Regulatory Reform Act of 2014 (SB734) will give community college students an opportunity to get a more complete education in the art, science and business of brewing beer — including sell their product on campus.
Beer brewing programs have been started at several of North Carolina’s community colleges to “meet a demand as the craft beer industry has grown to almost 100 craft brewers in this state,” said Keith Elliott, Department Chair of the Rockingham Community College Center for Brewing Sciences in the town of Wentworth, North Carolina. “These companies were needing the technicians trained in brewing technology and so this program was designed to meet that demand.”
These courses teach the chemical, biological and production process of brewing malted beverages, including the science of how to combine hops, malt and yeast to produce styles and flavors of beer. Rockingham was the first community college to offer this type of program in the entire nation, and other colleges in North Carolina have since followed suit with brewing courses being offered at Appalachian State University in Boone, Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, and Nash County Community College in Rocky Mount.
The change in the law was driven by a dilemma at App State — students there were churning out hundreds of gallons of fine brew in their brewing and fermentation programs, but until this new law was passed, our state’s alcohol laws forbade its sale. Brewing the beer on campus was legal as long as it was used for research and educational purposes by a university. But selling that beer was a different matter.1
SB734 now allows our colleges to obtain a license to sell their delicious malt beverages (at retail and wholesale), with the proceeds going to support the school’s brewing, distillation, and fermentation programs. The bill also lets students offer on-campus tastings and hold up to six special events featuring their beer. They can also market their products to the public by selling it at local festivals as well as to one retailer in their county.2
Trent Mohrbutter, Nash County Community College chief academic officer says, “If a group of students produce a brew and have people sample or even a group of individuals could purchase what they’ve produced, I don’t know that we can put a dollar figure on that, in terms of what that means to students, their success, their ability to move forward with their dreams and their passions.”3
North Carolina has unofficially become the craft beer capital of the South and is home to more than 50 craft breweries — more than any other Southern state. For four years in a row (2009-2012), the city of Asheville was voted “Beer City USA” by the website examiner.com and is considered one of the top craft-beer cities in the nation, with some 50 local varieties of brews offered by nine craft breweries.
According to the Brewers Association, a national craft brew advocacy group, the number of U.S. craft breweries grew by more than 15 percent from 2012 and 2013—with the current total at 2,768.