UR launches school’s first brewing certificate program

Bobby Faithful, assistant manager of The Answer Brewery (left) and Tom Parfitt with the University of Richmond, help create the school's Beer Brewer Professional Certificate. (J. Elias O'Neal)

Bobby Faithful, assistant manager of The Answer Brewery (left) and Tom Parfitt with the University of Richmond, help create the school’s Beer Brewer Professional Certificate. (J. Elias O’Neal)

A local university is jumping in on the momentum of the brewery industry.

The University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies recently began offering a Beer Brewer Professional Certificate.

The effort, designed in light of growing brewery workforce demand fueled by the rise of independent beer makers, is the only brewing certificate program offered by a private university in the state.

The school welcomed its first cohort of 20 students when classes began Oct. 17. A second 20-person cohort is set to start classes in April 2017, and applications are open for 20 slots in its third session in October 2017.

“The classes are being received very well,” said Tom Parfitt, senior program manager of professional development and noncredit programs for the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies. “The idea is make sure that whenever these students leave this program, they are prepared to handle the day-to-day operations no matter what aspect of the brewing business they choose.”

The University of Richmond’s brewing certificate program was created to guide students through the entire brewing business – from marketing and manufacturing, to licensing and regulation taught by University of Richmond facility, area brewers and legal counsel.

“The goal is set them apart…and make them more marketable for a brewery to hire, or give them the tools to go out and start a brewery venture on their own,” Parfitt said. “When they leave the program, we want them to be fully prepared.”

The total cost for the program is $2,200, Parfitt said, paid in advance or split into $550 per semester.

Unlike some continuing education courses, money alone doesn’t guarantee you a seat. The program is competitive, requiring students to submit an application and essay for review to be admitted to one of the 20 seats.

“Keeping the cohorts small allows us to be selective,” Parfitt said. “There are some who apply that get to the essay part and realize that they may be applying for this program for the wrong reasons and stop.”

For a year, students will gather at the university for classes every Monday evening, covering a variety of topics from brewing science, the history of brewing and brewing business, Parfitt said.

With the help of local breweries, such as Hardywood, Ardent and Strangeways, Parfitt said students are required to complete a 20-hour, month-long internship.

The program also requires students to take two field trips to affiliated breweries, and keep a notebook.

Bobby Faithful, assistant general manager at The Answer brewery on West Broad Street, who helped establish and teaches in the UR program, said his students come from all walks of life.

“I have old and young, women, I have educated professionals who are looking to change careers…it’s great mix of students,” he said.

Faithful, who has worked for breweries including Dogfish Head and Lost Rhino, said given Richmond’s booming brewing scene, the class is necessary to keep the region attractive for future brewing growth.

“It’s strongly needed,” Faithful said. “I think what the University of Richmond has done is capitalize on this business trend, and is offering a way for our area to retain and keep breweries growing.”

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