Many of the current professional brewers in Miami began making beer the good old-fashioned way — through homebrewing and with little to no formal training. But there's a huge difference between making a small five-gallon batch to share with friends and going pro.
A new brewing school in Miami — the Master Brewer Academy — will hold its inaugural class August 29 and is meant to take homebrewing to another level. Here, students will learn how to make beer on an industrial scale. The program will be a hands-on and "intensive" full-time program, says Todd Space, the South Florida native behind the new school.
The curriculum runs for 12 weeks and is broken down into the basic science of brewing during the first month and technology and equipment the second month. Topics include making beer, using wild yeast strains, casking beer, and running a business.
Because of the abundance of tropical fruit in Miami, there'll be a section dedicated to it. "There's a lot of extra-special flavoring that happens down here because of the tropical climate," Space says.
Space met with several local brewers, at least five of which offered their brewhouses to hold classes: MIA Beer Company, Concrete Beach Brewery, Wynwood Brewing, J. Wakefield Brewing, and the Tank Brewing. Students will begin in the taproom and then move into the brewhouse.
At the end of the class, students will complete a three-week internship at one of the aforementioned breweries except Concrete Beach. When the course is finished, students receive certificates of completion.
The academy isn't exactly designed for total novices, Space says. The program is designed to take the student who has at least some knowledge of brewing beer and introduce him or her to the hard work of making beer on an industrial scale. Space is limited too. Classes are limited to three per year, and each class is capped at 12 students.
"We're assuming most people are coming with, let's say, a homebrew background, so they're going to understand the way everything works on a five- or ten-gallon basis," Space says. "But once you ramp it up to a several-barrel system, there's a couple things that need to be considered. Suddenly, you've got pumps and hoses, where before you were just syphoning with little things here and there."
Space considered going pro and enrolling in one of the brewing programs in the U.S. and even looked at taking some online ones but wasn't sure if he wanted to go back to school again. With a master's degree in education, he approaches the learning process in his own way. "Brewing to me is a very hands-on experience," he says.
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The U.S. already has a handful of brewing schools, such as the American Brewers Guild in Vermont and the Siebel Institute of Technology's Master Brewer Program in Chicago — the latter arguably among the most prestigious (and perhaps the most expensive at $27,350)l. There are several university-affiliated brewing schools, such University of California-Davis and a graduate program at Auburn University.
Miami has one too. Professor Barry Gump has been teaching brewers for years at Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management before a brewing science lab was completed in 2014, although the course is an elective.
Tuition at the Master Brewer Academy costs $8,600, but Space is knocking off $600 for the inaugural class plus another $1,000 for those who register before July 15. The school doesn't offer any financing, although Space says payment plans can be worked out. Register for the class at masterbreweracademy.com.