The college experience usually involves some amount of beer, cider, and other spirits.
But it’s not generally part of the curriculum.
In 2018, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) introduced a new Craft Brewing and Distilling Program to prepare students to open their own craft brewing operations or support existing businesses with their knowledge and talent.
In 2019, SPSCC broke ground on a new brewhouse, after choosing ICC-NW as its design-build partner. “We spent a lot of time reaching out to different vendors in the U.S. and Europe, performing due diligence on each one, and ICC-NW has a fantastic reputation,” says SPSCC Director of Craft Brewing and Distilling Frank Addeo. “They’re not just welders who make shaped tanks – they understand the craft, how the tanks are going to be used, and design and fabricate them to support exactly what we needed.”
What SPSCC needed was a bit different from your standard brewery. This facility will include brewing equipment and tanks, as well as a cidery and distillery equipment and tanks.
“We’re looking to produce not just beer but spirits that can involve using grains that are not necessarily malts that have been rolled but ones that have actually gone through a mill into a much finer grain,” says Addeo. “So having a system that can handle distillate products as well as brewing products is definitely a tall order. The fact that they’re willing to step up take this on, on top of being very generous with their pricing as well as the costs that are incurred typically with shipping and installation, is phenomenal.”
The location of the SPSCC brewhouse in the City of Tumwater—the former home of the Olympia Brewery—is nostalgic, symbolic, and hopeful. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with people who’ve expressed how Tumwater was impacted by the closure of the brewery, and certainly there is a long-brewing history here in the area,” says Addeo. “I would hope that this in some ways is kind of a successor to fill that void and once again make the Olympia and Tumwater area known for craft beverage production.”
The 10-barrel SPSCC brewhouse will be fully automated, featuring horizontal lagering tanks, step meshing, a clean-in-place system for students’ safety, and a cellar system.
A bonus for the first cohort of students is a rare opportunity of being able to watch the build-out and work with Addeo during the commissioning process of fine-tuning the system, getting acquainted with the programming and sensors. “Some people work their whole careers and never have this opportunity,” says Addeo. The commissioning process will be recorded for sharing with future students.
Automation is another feature of the brewhouse that will give SPSCC graduates a head start in their careers. Students are required to complete an internship with a local brewer, which, in most cases, would give them a great experience in manual operations. The type of automation technology they’ll interact within the SPSCC brewhouse can be found in larger production spaces. “They’ll have an experience analogous with having industry experience already,” says Addeo.
Additionally, in an educational setting automation is important because it ensures consistency, allowing students to focus on the brew process itself.
The beer, cider, and spirits produced by the students will be available for the market, thanks to an ingenious model developed by Walla Walla University for its Institute for Enology and Viticulture College Cellars teaching winery. The SPSCC Foundation will manage LLCs that hold licenses for brewing and distilling, allowing students to produce a series of branded beer, cider, and spirits for sale. Revenues from their sales will go back to the college to support its curricula and provide scholarships.
Addeo expects the SPSCC brewhouse to employ four or five people to manage various functions while also teaching students.
The first cohort of students to enroll was 25. Addeo expects the program to attract 60 to 90 students in the future. “This program was designed to provide a highly accessible high-quality educational avenue by offering online coursework and monthly hands-on skill-building,” he says. “In addition, we’re very interested in having this program support the craft beverage industry across the western U.S. by helping train professionals for the industry.”
That, says Addeo, was another reason ICC-NW appealed to SPSCC. “It’s important to us that we work with vendors that support U.S. industry,” he says. ICC buys U.S. stainless steel and other products.
“We’re honored that SPSCC chose us as their design-build partner for this unique facility,” says ICC-NW President Kyle Sawyer. “We wanted to offer our support with reduced rates and free shipping and installation because we’re happy to play a part in helping steward the next generations of craft beverage producers.”