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GRCC’s Craft Brewing Program adapts courses to better prepare students for the industry


By Mackenzie Davis 

The Grand Rapids Community College craft brewing program has been up and running since 2016, preparing students for the wide variety of skills needed for the brewing industry. As the number of breweries have increased in ‘beer city’ over the years, the industry has also shifted its demands for the knowledge of budding brewers. 

No one understands this more than Allison Hoekstra, certified Cicerone and GRCC’s craft brewing program instructor who decided to add five new classes to the course programs for the next semester. 

“It used to be that in the craft brewing industry, if you had some basic brewing knowledge, you could get an entry-level position and work your way up,” Hoekstra said. “The industry has kind of changed where you can’t really do that anymore.” 

Hoekstra reached out through surveys to GRCC alumni and the Michigan Brewers Guild to see how she could better prepare her students for their future jobs. With the help of Molly Daniels and Brad Landman, the five new classes that have been added follow the advice of workers in the industry.  

Now extending the program to a year and a half for full-time students to complete, the new classes include fermentation biology, draft systems and packaging, quality control, developing a sensory program and brewing operations and regulatory affairs.

 The program instructors hope these classes will further prepare students for the real world. 

“Our goal of changing and making these additions to the program is really to put out graduates that are even more ready to be a brewer in the industry,” Hoekstra said. 

Jon Vanderploeg completed the program in the first years of its opening. Now working at The Mitten Brewing Company, Vanderploeg talks about the benefits of the program. 

“The program was really great. It taught me the right skills for some entry brewing work, and it helped make good connections in the community,” Vanderploeg said. “It helped me get a job right away.” 

The program also allows students to get a taste of the real world through the Fountain Hill Brewery which is open to the public every Thursday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. starting the third week of the fall semester. 

Students interested in the program can go to the website to learn more about what the program has to offer.

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