Man working in brewery

Sustainable Brewing

As a sustainable brewing major at WMU, you will gain first-hand experience going through the process of brewing from grain to glass.

  • Hops in hand
  • Hopps Lab
  • Student received Kalamazoo Beer Exchange Scholarship

About the program

Craft brewing has experienced exponential growth during the last two decades and in Michigan contributes around $2 billion and thousands of jobs to the economy.  West Michigan has developed a strong reputation for the craft, and as the site of the nation's first higher ed program in sustainable craft brewing, Kalamazoo is becoming an education destination for this rapidly growing employment and entrepreneurial phenomenon.

The joint sustainable brewing program was developed by Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College working in close coordination with a panel of Michigan's top craft brewers and suppliers. In this program, you will gain an understanding of the history and social forces that have shaped the practice of brewing, develop a strong ethic of sustainability and learn the necessary skills to contribute effectively to this dynamic industry.


Program Details

The sustainable brewing program is a four-year interdisciplinary curriculum at Western's Main Campus, preparing students for roles in the brewing field. Students enrolled in the sustainable brewing certificate programs at Kalamazoo Valley Community College can transfer to WMU to complete their B.S. in sustainable brewing. Due to the rigorous interdisciplinary nature of the program and the large number of credit hours required, the program does not require a minor and offers hybrid or online courses.

Students can choose two possible "tracks" in this program:


Brewing Track

Required Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses for the program will complement a slate of brewing-focused courses, while additional courses in sustainability and other elective fields will provide the breadth of knowledge sought in the industry. The program is supported and advised by an external advisory board with members from the top breweries in the state.

  • Track Objectives
    • Understand the historical and social forces that were cause and effect of brewing in human civilization.
    • Gain first-hand experience going through the process of brewing, “grain to glass”.
    • Develop a sensitivity for the ethic of sustainability that will inform decisions about energy demand, efficiency, water use, waste minimization, and local sourcing of materials.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the biochemistry and microbiology involved in fermentation and aging.

Operations Track

To create and maintain a diverse, broadly-trained workforce that can critically evaluate information to make informed decisions, the overarching goal of this program is to educate students to be problem solvers in the operation of brewing-related businesses. This operations track complements a slate of hands-on brewing courses by providing formal instruction in business, food service operation and sustainability.

  • Track Objectives
    • Understand the historical context of brewing in human civilization.
    • Gain first-hand experience going through the process of brewing, “grain to glass.”
    • Examine the place that food production and distribution occupy in human culture and the environmental impact of associated energy demand, water use, waste management, and local sourcing.
    • Learn fundamental business skills to manage and grow the beverage and food industry and respond to changing markets.
    • Develop critical thinking skills to evaluate how and why the brewing industry can become more sustainable.
Men brewing beer

Beyond the classroom

The sustainable brewing program incorporates hands-on service learning in several ways to allow you to learn outside of the classroom, which can help shape your career plan, build your resume, expand your professional network and increase your chances of securing a job after graduation. An internship in the KVCC certificate program is followed by a capstone course at Western Michigan University where students work on an independent project to help solve a real-world issue facing breweries today.

Ready to take the next step? Apply today!

If you still have questions, we want to help answer them! Contact a Sustainable Brewing Advisor below about general program details and career information, or schedule an advising appointment for specifics about program requirements, course transfers and scheduling.