Colleges on the hop as Carlow IT launches BSc in brewing

Huge demand expected for dream course as beer-lovers pour in to bubbling sector

29th September, 2016
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Paul Mullin, managing director of White Hag Brewery in Sligo. Pic: James Connolly
Technician at Boyne Brewhouse and Boann Distillery in Drogheda. Pic: Barry Cronin

Carlsberg don't do degrees...not like this one anyway.

Carlow Institute of Technology has entered the pints race to offer 18 places on a four-year honours degree in brewing and distilling, starting next September.

The sector is currently booming in Ireland but no formal degree programme has existed - until now - in the science of what many consider Ireland’s greatest gift to the world.

The BSc in brewing and distilling comes after two years of development - and lengthy consultation with industry and government.

Director Dr David Ryan said: "The sector has been crying out for this qualification and the level of support we have received in developing it has been phenomenal, from industry partners as well as An Bord Bia, the Irish Brewers' Association and the Irish Whiskey Association, and Teagasc.

"This degree programme has been peer-reviewed and assessed by Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, the world's leading experts in brewing and distilling education.

"We expect our graduates to work everywhere from craft breweries to industry giants such as Pernod-Ricard and Diageo.

"The six-month industry placement in third year will be tailored to the individual students' interests.

"The craft brewing market is growing but it remains only two per cent of overall beer sales.

"We expect Carlow IT to develop as a hub and centre of excellence for brewing and distilling in Ireland, with masters and research programmes eventually coming on stream.

"This is an incredibly vibrant and innovative industry, with huge opportunities for students. Mark Reynier of Waterford Distillery is working with 46 individual barley growers using 19 different soil types to develop distinctive, unique blended mature whiskeys.

"Likewise, Pearse Lyons of Alltech has developed Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, a cross-over product which is aged in bourbon barrels," says Dr Ryan.

Programme director Dr David Ryan; Carlow IT president Dr Patricia Mulcahy and food writer John McKenna at the launch. Pic: Pat Moore

Such is the pent-up demand that the degree course is expected to require CAO Leaving Cert points between 400 and 500.

Alongside the degree course, the institute will also offer several continuous professional development programmes for industry employees.

The CPD qualifications will be available in yeast biology; malting and brewing raw materials; brewing processes; distillation and distilled spirits production and post-distillation downstream processing.

The programme will be part of the long-established biosciences stream at Carlow and will position the college as a nexus for teaching, learning, research and innovation in brewing and distilling.

The brewing and distilling industry is having a renaissance yet experiencing a national skills deficit. The sector is now one of Ireland’s fastest-growing industries, exporting over 95 per cent of its production.

According to the Food Wise 2025 national plan, Ireland’s brewing and distilling industry will contribute towards the creation of an additional 23,000 food and drink-based jobs by 2025, an 85 per cent increase in food and drink exports to €19 billion and a 65 per cent increase in primary production value to €10 billion.

A full 28 distilleries are now operating in Ireland and the number of microbreweries is expected to grow to 100 by 2025.

A surge of interest in craft beer and micro distilleries in emerging markets in Asia, and the explosion of the craft alcohol market in the United States, are fuelling the sector.

Leading food and drink experts were at this afternoon's course launch, including food writer and publisher John McKenna, Seamus O’Hara of Carlow Brewing Company, Lisa Ryan from Waterford Distillery and Bernard Walsh, CEO of Walsh Whiskey.

Food writer John McKenna said: "Irish craft brewing and Irish craft distilling are the two most exciting and dynamic sectors in Ireland’s food and drink culture.

"In almost thirty years of writing about speciality food and drink in Ireland, I have never witnessed anything like the energy and creativity that we see today amongst the brewers and distillers. But, until now, the industry has lacked a recognised centre of excellence and academic research, and that is exactly what the BSc in Brewing and Distilling at the Institute of Technology Carlow will provide.

“The BSc sends a message to Speyside and to Hakushu and to Kentucky that a country that once enjoyed the drinks of scores of diverse distilleries and breweries is hungry to be amongst the world leaders in these fields” he said.

“Personally, I only wish that the course had existed 40 years ago when I went to college”.

The course is highly practical and hands-on with access to brewing and distilling facilities. BSc graduates can apply for advanced entry and mature students will also be considered.

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