A-B Tech's Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast opens doors for interested brewers

Published on the WLOS website on July 28, 2023

Asheville, N.C. (WLOS) — Craft beverages in Western North Carolina have become a popular sip, and at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), there's a program to make the process even cooler.

A-B Tech’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast (CBI) opened its doors to students in the fall of 2013; its Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation program was the first two-year accredited degree of its type in the nation.

Ten years on, the CBI has several hundred alumni working throughout the industry in Western North Carolina and beyond.

"I always ask them what they are interested in and that was really the driving force on the diversity of what we are teaching," said Jeff Irvin, the director of the program.

Irvin was hired as the CBI’s first Brewmaster. After a nationwide search, Irvin was named “the best-educated brewmaster in the country.”


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Irvin earned his undergraduate degree in Biology from Iowa State University and completed the highly regarded Master Brewers program at the University of California at Davis. A-B Tech offered an opportunity for Irvin to build a new program, write the curriculum and focus on educating and training students in collaboration with industry partners.

The Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation degree consists of two full years and a summer internship.

The Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast (CBI) at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College is designed to support the rapidly growing craft beverage industry in Western North Carolina and the Southeast by providing curriculum and non-credit courses in brewing, distilling, fermentation, and related business practices.

The Institute prepares individuals for positions in brewery and distillery operations and management, distribution, sales, and marketing, and customer service or to be self-employed and open their own craft production facility.

"As students continue their education, something that no one can take away from you and they go up the ranks wherever they're working at learning more along the way and adopting the craft that we taught them here, it's exciting for me to see the progression of that student now making decisions at some of these local places and all over the planet," Irvin said.

The Institute offers a training fermentation facility that supports real-time learning and reflects industry standards:

  • Commercial size brew-house
  • Six pilot brewing systems
  • Hybrid distillation system
  • Commercial winery production equipment
  • Sensory analysis lab
  • Packaging lines
  • Quality assurance/quality control lab

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In addition to brewing, distillation, and winemaking practices, students perform experiments and vet their production output via sensory evaluations.

Students are able to perform experiments and receive “just-in-time” instruction. In addition to brewing, distillation, and winemaking practices, students may vet their production output via sensory evaluations.

These courses were recent graduate Jamie Reardon's first college experience and he says his experience allowed him to secure a job at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Mills River.

"This program definitely gave me the opportunity to work at the number three largest craft brewery in the United States," Reardon said. "I just came to this program because I thought it would be fun."

In addition to learning the science and getting hands-on experience with brewing, distilling, and fermenting, the program emphasizes marketing, equipment maintenance, and overall operations. Fall 2023 admission to the CBI’s Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation Program is now open and only 24 spots remain. To learn more visit Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast® or call (828) 398-7191.

You can also find the "Consuming the Craft" Podcast on Apple Store or Google Play, Facebook or Instagram: @abtechdrinks and on YouTube: @consumingthecraf

Fall classes begin Aug. 21, 2023.

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