Distill, My Brewing Heart
Building education in craft brewing, craft distilling, and cider making
In 2015, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) and numerous community partners recognized a huge opportunity for regional growth—we have the potential to become a nationwide leader in the craft brewing, cider, and distilling industries. With more than 250 craft breweries and 100 micro distilleries in the state, we’re already right at the top for concentration of breweries and distilleries nationwide.
Washington state—and Thurston County in particular—is uniquely positioned to have a meaningful impact on all aspects of these industries. You’ve probably already heard talk of renovating historic buildings and constructing new facilities, but the first—and arguably most important—step is to ensure that our community is educated in the business, craft, and potential reach of these industries.
Enter SPSCC: already a trusted resource for Thurston County’s educational needs. SPSCC has been part of the conversations since day one and we’re ready to share the behind the scenes work we’ve been doing to ensure that our community is educated for the rise of distilling and brewing in Thurston County.
What we’ve been learning
In order to provide the needed education, we had to learn quite a bit ourselves. Let us share some of what it will take to make this a success in our community.
Washington State already has a successful model: Walla Walla
What wine has done for Walla Walla, craft brewing and distilling can do for Thurston County. Since its inception, the Walla Walla IPZ Wine Cluster has generated more than 2,000 jobs in wine production and wine tourism and more than $230 million dollars in regional earnings, and has grown overall employment in the region by 11% at a time when the state as a whole saw only 1% job growth. They did it by starting with a strong educational program led by the Enology and Viticulture programs at Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University, adding in a collection of community partners who had common interests (through shared supply chains, labor pools, and inter-industry trade), and a focus on taking actions that benefited the entire industry cluster. The result? “Walla Walla = Wine.” It is a critical part of the region’s identity.
Thurston County will see a significant positive economic impact
“Olympia = Beer” doesn’t just have to be a notion of the past. Thanks to a rich history of brewing success, strong agricultural roots (especially grains and hops), a booming food production core, demonstrated community support for entrepreneurship and business development, ever-increasing tourism, and a robust supply chain of everything from barrels to graphic designers, Thurston County would need to outsource very little and would enjoy a tight local network to support this industry. In fact, a recent feasibility study estimates that the creation of this regional cluster would create 662 jobs and put $101 million into the local economy. With those results, Thurston County could cement itself as a world-class hub for these small businesses to share ideas, build their businesses, and build their workforce.
How SPSCC is moving forward
While we’re excited about the impact we’ll see once this industry growth is actualized, there’s a lot of work that goes into development, funding, and educating the community. SPSCC is moving rapidly developing the needed education.
While we haven’t implemented for-credit education quite yet, SPSCC is offering a wide array of non-credit classes. Classes are presented in partnership with local craft brewers and distillers. These businesses have stated that demand for their products is far out-pacing their ability to supply it. They’re getting involved so they can be part of educating the next generation of brewers and distillers, office staff, machinists, and food scientists that will soon be members of their teams and industry community.
SPSCC is rapidly moving forward with planning for curriculum, instruction space, and staffing for our craft brewing, cider, and distilling education options. Brewing and Cider programs are forecasted to launch in fall 2017 and Distilling will follow one year later, all pending State Board approval.
To align with a fall 2017 program launch, SPSCC is actively considering locations for lab-focused course instruction. We’re looking for facilities that are close to the heart of Thurston County and meet the size and equipment requirements to house these programs. Our longer-term vision, however, is to build or renovate facilities on campus or in combination with community partners through the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center.
Learn more about our progress
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