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CIA to step up craft beer curriculum with on-site brewery

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An artist’s rendering of the brewery located inside the CIA student union. Image credit: CIA

As craft beer continues to gain prominence with both consumers and culinary types, retailers are increasing their stocks of popular local and regional brews and restaurants are investing more into craft beer with diversified offerings and special pairing menus. The increase in sales of craft beer and the continued attention these beers get from chefs, brewers and restaurants suggest that craft brewing is more than just a fleeting trend, and knowledge of fermentation and brewing is quickly becoming just as important as wine expertise in the restaurant world.

To keep up with the growing demand for beer education, the Culinary Institute of America is partnering with Brooklyn Brewery to develop a small brewery on the college’s Hyde Park, N.Y., campus. The facility, slated to open in summer 2015, will be located in the school’s new student union and dining facility, which is currently under construction.

The brewing facility will help the CIA expand its beer curriculum, which currently “is sort of like what a homebrewer would do at home or in his garage … this will allow us to teach brewing in a more professional setting,” said Waldy Malouf, senior director of special projects for the CIA. Juniors and seniors pursuing a concentration in Advanced Wine, Beverage, and Hospitality will staff the brewery and learn about the science of fermentation and how to run a food and beverage business. Brooklyn Brewery has worked with the school on beer promotions for more than 20 years, and the brewery’s celebrated Brewmaster Garrett Oliver helped the CIA design the curriculum, recipes and brewery set-up. Brooklyn Brewery will use the CIA facility as a testing ground for new beer recipes and flavors.

Students will produce a lager and pilsner exclusive to the CIA, along with seasonal brews, all of which will be available on tap at the brewery and in the school’s three on-campus restaurants, as well as for purchase in growlers. Malouf said the school may look into bottling the beer, but there is currently no bottling facility on campus. Food will be served in the student union alongside the brewery, and Malouf said the school is considering a food-pairing program for the brewery. The school’s student beer club already has plans to use the facility for its own pairing exercises.

Craft beer sales grew 16% in volume over the past year, while sales of major brands like Budweiser and Miller saw a 1.7% decline, according to research from Symphony IRI Group. Craft beers are edging out the big-name brands, but it’s not all bad news for these big brewers, which are rapidly snapping up craft beer brands and launching their own. Many consumers are unaware of the fact that popular craft label Blue Moon is owned by major brand MillerCoors, and Sam Adams’ parent Boston Beer Co. produces more than 2.5 million barrels of beer per year. Numbers like these beg the question of whether these large operations can really be called craft breweries at all, a battle that Boston Beer found itself fighting on Capitol Hill last year.

But small operations like the CIA’s are also on the rise, and chefs and beer experts are joining forces to create breweries with culinary flair, such as Greg Engert’s newly opened Bluejacket Brewery in Washington, D.C., and the brewery planned by brewer Brian Mercer and Chef Brendan Collins for Los Angeles’ port district.