Brewing up something good

By Cherie Yurco

Dallas College is relaunching its brewer program to meet industry demand

Texas brewers, from craft to industrial, are having difficulty finding trained employees to make beer. Steve DeShazo, senior director of workforce and career connected learning at Dallas College, says that, for about a year, he’s been fielding requests from craft brewers eager to hire trained workers. In response, new Dallas College Brewer program sessions are set to begin March 21.

Craft breweries, distilleries and wineries in Texas have seen annual employment growth nearly twice that of the rest of the country, and the state is in the top 10 in terms of its number of craft breweries, according to the Texas Comptroller website. The industry employs 4,000 Texans at an average annual wage of $58,730.

Peter Boettcher developed the Dallas College brewing program and its curriculum in 2015, after seeing the need. The program is the first of its kind in Texas.

“You had a booming industry, but the education was completely lagging behind,” said Boettcher. A master brewer, he has worked in the industry more than 36 years, in both Germany and the U.S., plus he has a degree in brewing science from Doemens Brewing Academy in Munich.

Among the students in the very first Journeyman Brewer program was Nick Sorenson, who is now co-owner and head brewer of Equal Parts Brewing in Houston. Sorenson and business partner Matt Peterson founded Equal Parts in 2016. Sorenson describes running a brewery as “a fun cross section of technical ability and creativity.”

“There was a pretty gigantic knowledge gap with neither of us having been in the industry previously,” said Sorenson. “When the first Journeyman course opened up, we jumped on it. I am happy we did. I don’t think things would have gone the way they did otherwise.”

“We have full plans to send as many of our employees through as possible,” he added. That is, as soon as he can spare them. For now, it’s all hands on deck as they expand their brewery.

​The Journeyman Brewer program has a 98% placement rate, with many students getting hired before they finish the six-week course. Curtis Caldwell went to work at Deep Ellum Brewing Company immediately after graduating in 2017. He’s now head brewer at Legal Draft Beer Company in Arlington.

He said the course gave him a complete overview, “grain to glass,” of each individual process. “It gives you a comprehensive base of knowledge to pretty much walk into anywhere and become useful.”

Dallas College offers two certificate levels: Journeyman Brewer and Technical Brewer. “Journeyman Brewer is for dedicated frontline workers — the backbone of the industry,” explained Boettcher. Students learn the steps in the brewing process as well as why they are important. An integral part of the program is interning at breweries.

Caldwell said that the internship was invaluable and allowed him to work in different types of breweries. “There are guys who get bachelor’s degrees in fermentation science but have zero practical knowledge,” he said. “Going through the internship gives you that ‘I’ve done this before’ attitude.”

Technical Brewer is a two-part advanced program. Students must have passed Journeyman Brewer (or an assessment test) and have already worked in the industry. Applied Brewing Science gives students an in-depth look at brewing processes and controlling them — water treatment, fermentation profiles, recipe formulation and more. Advanced Brewing Practices teaches them how to run a brewery — the business of brewing.

The instruction portions of the brewing programs are offered both in person and online, and the internship can be taken at any brewery. The program has taught students from across the U.S., as well as overseas.

When asked what he loves about brewing, Caldwell described the satisfaction of any creative industry. “It’s gratifying and challenging to come up with a balanced, marketable, interesting recipe and get positive feedback after the work you put in.”

As more breweries open up in Texas, the need for a trained workforce will only intensify. “A lot of a brewery’s success depends on how well they brew their beer; it’s very competitive,” said Boettcher. “Training is key to success.”

This article was originally posted here.

Cherie Yurco

is a news writer at Dallas College in Texas.