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WNC Business

Specialized education boosts craft beverage businesses

May 08, 2024 07:30AM ● By Randee Brown

Education is something that can never be taken away from you. Whether learning happens in the form of a curriculum degree, certification, or continuing education, it is an investment that will always pay dividends at some time or another.

There is an increase in standardizing education within the craft beverage industry. As the work is very hands-on, students have to do the work in order to learn for themselves, and being guided is imperative to formulating a complete understanding of it. From science to creating new products to building customer relationships, education is the foundation of the work.

Science & Technology

Flavor recognition is at the forefront of the craft. The science behind taste profiles and sensory recognition has evolved dramatically from the ‘map of the tongue’ of years ago. We know so much more about how senses relate to certain areas of your brain. Everyone’s taste and smell is different, and it takes practice to develop the vocabulary to describe flavor compounds that are adjusted and manipulated as specific beverages are crafted.

In addition to new science, new technology and new processes allow brewers to be increasingly creative. Students may have varying interests in different products, but benefits of cross training may come into play in surprising ways. New techniques like resting gin in a used cabernet barrel or soaking a stout beer in a bourbon cask have come about, and aspiring brewers will need to understand what went on in that cask in order to add layers of flavor that make sense. A knowledge of multiple beverages really helps students diversify what they’re making after they graduate.


Diversification of the craft beverage industry in the region has exploded in the last 10 years, and education offerings must adjust to the market. Instructors must also have an understanding of where trends are headed. With such a concentration of craft beverage makers in the region and an increasing variety of what people are drinking, guidance is important in quickly learning and adapting to offer more options for consumers in search of new and different flavors and products. 

We’ve recently seen many producers branching out into new products and partnering on new collaborations. Things like hard seltzer were barely heard of when the Institute first began, and now some of these new processes have been indoctrinated into our curriculum. They have to be in order for makers to keep up with consumer demand.

Customer Experience

Beginning with your behind-the-bar staff, the more educated an employee is, the more elevated a customer’s experience will be, and the more money the bartender and the company is likely to make. Smells, flavors, and tastes are often related to recognition of a time and place in someone’s life. With guidance, those working in the craft beverage industry can leverage this connection to boost their business.

Educating your staff allows them to educate your customers about the products you’re making. Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before with so much information right at their fingertips. When your staff are knowledgeable and passionate, it gets them more excited about what they are offering. They engage in good conversations with customers, fostering their knowledge as well as their memory, which builds brand loyalty and keeps them coming back. 

Customers can pull out a can or a bottle and have a drink, and the sensory recognition allows them to remember the great time they had at that location. They will buy the hat and the T-shirt, and then you have a walking billboard. They’re more likely to come back, bring their friends, and enjoy their experience multiple times. It’s just part of good business.

The Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast at A-B Tech Community College specializes in educating professionals of the craft beverage industry. Tune into their Consuming The Craft podcast with Jeff “Puff” Irvin at