ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University’s Craft Brewing program has a new lease on life this fall after rumors surfaced that it may be going away.
Director Eric Graham and his team were told earlier this year not to recruit new students for the popular CWU program, which offers the only four-year craft-brewing degree on the West Coast.
But all of those fears faded this month when the College of the Sciences gave Craft Brewing the green light to seek new enrollment for 2021. One of the reasons for the reprieve, Graham said, was an enormous show of support from the Northwest craft brewing industry — specifically from Central Washington.
“We are loved in the industry, and there was just a huge outpouring of letters saying, ‘you can’t do this,’” he said. “The main reason is that the hops and beer companies keep asking us for graduates and we can’t fill the jobs as fast as they’re occurring.”
Graham and his fellow lecturers like to say the program has a “greater than 100% placement rate” because they can barely keep up with the recent surge in hops research and craft brewing jobs around the region.
As it turns out, CWU Craft Brewing (CRBW) has become essential to the success of companies large and small, from international hops suppliers John I. Haas Inc. and Hopsteiner to growing regional breweries such as Bale Breaker, Dru Bru, and Ellensburg’s own Iron Horse.
“The letters we got were really meaningful,” said Eric Foss, a yeast specialist and former CWU microbiology instructor who started teaching in Craft Brewing full-time last year. “There are a lot of people who have seen the impact our program has had, and they wanted to show their support for their employees and for us.”
Hops research scientist Cole Provence is the program’s other full-time lecturer. Wayne Quirk and Graham cross over with the Biological Sciences department, while associate professor Roger Beardsley splits time with Mechanical Engineering Technology.
Without the use of a full-time facility, the program has trained dozens of qualified professionals since the CRBW four-year degree was introduced in 2016, including three hops research scientists who were recently hired at John I. Haas in Yakima.
One current student has a job waiting for him at Bale Breaker, near Yakima, as soon as he completes his degree, while two recent CWU graduates have also landed there.
“It’s amazing the number of students who have done an internship and are offered a job right away,” Provence said. “A big reason they are getting jobs is we give them the opportunity to work alongside brewers prior to graduation.”