Beer brewing program on tap at Rockingham Community College

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Rockingham Community College will launch a new program all about beer this fall.

The Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation degree program will be the first of its kind offered by a community college in the country.

Students in the program will work towards an associate degree to turn grain and hops grown at RCC into cold brews.

Classes will consist of 15 students who will learn the science of the process involved in making beer in chemistry, biology and mathematics courses before testing the fermentation process.

In creating a curriculum for the program, RCC President Dr. Michael Helmick said he looked to industry leaders for guidance. Piedmont Distillers and MillerCoors served as  advisers and several local breweries, including Red Oak and Natty Greene's, were asked for their input as well.

"Students will get everything they'll need to earn that credential [to make beer] and go to work anywhere in the United States at a brewery," Helmick said. "We hope most students will start right around here and help grow this economy, but for those who want to go on and gain experience elsewhere, that's what we're hoping will eventually happen."

The city of Eden donated the faculty on Washington street and will also assist with utility costs. Helmick said without their donation, the building would have cost well over $1 million.

Kayne Fisher with Natty Greene's in Greensboro said the new program not only shows the growing interest in the industry, but allows local breweries to choose from qualified technicians to hire.

"What we're experiencing right now in the state of North Carolina is a gold rush on the craft breed side in only the past five years or so," Fisher said.

An open house for the Center for Brewing Science will be held in downtown Eden Thursday night at 5 p.m.

Brewing science courses begin on August 19.

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