Beer is a booming industry.
Recent research has found that the hundreds of breweries across Colorado have already created thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact. An evening stroll down Gunnison’s Main Street can easily attest to these claims by the frequent overflow of The High Alpine Brewing Company’s balcony. Music, sports and conversation are of course all accompaniment to the centerpiece of the establishment: craft beer.
Western caught onto this undeniable buzz three years ago with the unveiling of a class solely focused on everything microbrewing. Since then, the class—coded BUAD 197—has nearly tripled in size and has proven microbrewing to be a highly engaging topic for students and professors alike.
Business hospitality professor and beer enthusiast, Michael Vieregge, Ph.D., teaches the course and routinely invites professors from various departments and local experts to give guest lectures.
“I try to use a lot of the expertise on campus and from around the community,” Vieregge said.
Many students are taking the course because they have a particular interest in beer and the craft beverage industry. Vieregge sees this as a key component to the rich classroom environment.
“The students bring a lot of personal knowledge and energy [into the classroom],” he said.
Senior Business Marketing major Christina Boyd, who plans on opening her own brewpub after graduation, spoke about the unique qualities of a course solely focused on the craft beverage industry.
“You go into [the microbrewing class] knowing that beer will be the main focus of discussion … it’s really motivating,” Boyd said with a laugh.
Most importantly, the class has enlightened Boyd and her classmates on microbrewing as a complex industry, rich in elements other than beer itself.
“It’s opened my mind to all that goes into microbrewing … the science, sociology, economics and history are all very interesting,” Boyd added.
Vieregge hopes to see the course continue to expand its cross-departmental reach as it grows in student popularity, particularly by including more hands-on components so students can start gaining experience making their own brews.
In the meantime, Vieregge makes a point to take the class on field trips to visit breweries and distilleries around the Gunnison Valley, Salida and Montrose.
“It’s one thing to see a picture of the process, it’s another to see it firsthand,” Vieregge said.
Story by Peter Noon
Photo by Michael Vieregge