Kent State Ashtabula expands viticulture, enology programs to include beer brewing certification

Sophie Giffin Reporter

A new beer brewing certificate will be offered fall 2021 at Kent State Ashtabula as an extension to their viticulture and enology program.

The existing program has grown over the last 10 years and stands as the only one in Ohio.

“Brewing in general in the state of Ohio is really booming,” said Lori Lee, program liaison. “It was the next natural step for the program that we have.” 

The growth and opportunity within the brewing industry can be seen nationally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported from 2006 to 2016 that breweries were over half of the employment growth in the U.S. beverage manufacturing industry and the number of breweries from 2010 to 2016 increased more than fivefold.

In 2018, the U.S. beer industry accounted for 2.19 million jobs, according to a joint study done by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. In the state of Ohio, the National Brewers Association found that Ohio ranks seventh in economic impact and fourth in annual production among the U.S. states.

The opportunity in this job market is only strengthened for students in Kent State Ashtabula’s program, Lee said.

“We receive calls regularly from vineyards and wineries throughout the state to advertise jobs with us – more jobs than we can fill with our current number of graduates,” she said. “With exponential growth being experienced in the brewing industry, we project that our students would have the same success in finding jobs after graduation.”

The enology and viticulture programs currently have a 100% placement rate for graduates intending to be employed in the industry, Lee said. 

Part of the success of the viticulture and enology program comes from their partnership with Laurello Vineyards, which allows students to work to make their own wine with a private label. 

While the brewing program is currently too small to have a similar partner yet, Lee said she plans for a similar partnership down the road.

The potential for expanding the program also came from current students. 

“Through the viticulture and enology program, we had some students who were interested in brewing,” said enology faculty member Ed Trebets. He also encouraged those who work full-time or are desiring a career change to consider the new certificate.

The entire program is mostly taught online, making it easy for students anywhere to take the courses. There are required field experience hours that provide hands-on experience while still being flexible around schedules. The new certificate compliments the current courses and allows students to choose a pathway in either wine making, beer brewing or both.

While brewing is just beginning as a certificate, there is a partnership with the hospitality management program at Kent State which allows students to choose to earn their bachelor’s and the brewing certificate if they wish to further their education. However, Trebets hopes the program will be able to grow on its own as well.

“Starting with the certificate we can see what interest and numbers we have,” he said. “From there, if it’s working, we can move onto a brewing degree.” 

Trebets and Lee encourage students from any campus over the age of 21 to take a course or check out the program. In addition to supporting the program, regional campus tuition is considerably less than main-campus for those looking to save some money while having a unique class experience.

Sophie Giffin is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]