Drawn to a beer career in the Carolinas? Study fermentation science

Heidi Finley

Photo by Ellen Barnette College of Arts and Sciences/ Appalachian State

The booming brewery scene in North Carolina shows no sign of slowing down, which can translate to career opportunities for students in fermentation science.

Bigger breweries such as New Belgium Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues dot the state’s landscape, along with dozens of craft breweries opened by entrepreneurs hoping their beverage-making skills are on point.

Students seeking to join them through a bachelor of science degree should expect coursework heavy in biology and chemistry, as well as classes in food science, facility design and even process validation science, depending on the school. Study through certification or an associate’s degree is also possible.

Photo by Ellen Barnette College of Arts and Sciences/ Appalachian State

Four places in North Carolina to study fermentation science are:

Appalachian State University
The Fermentation Sciences program is an inter-disciplinary degree within the College of Arts and Sciences intended to provide students with a strong background in chemistry and biology and a considerable focus in business, marketing and entrepreneurial principles, its website says. Coursework on wine production is also available. The Master Brewers Association of the Americas has recognized the Boone campus’ bachelor of science degree.

N.C. State University

Its Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences houses the N.C. State Brewery, which strives to be a leader “in the art of lagering.” The brewery serves as a research and teaching facility, but also distributes beer to university events in Raleigh with offering such as the Chancellor’s Choice IPA and Brickyard Red.

Johnson & Wales University

The College of Culinary Arts offers minors in craft brewing and sommelier, as well as a certificate in professional craft brewing. The Charlotte school says the program is intended to prepare students for entry-level positions within mid-sized breweries, assistant brewer positions within small breweries, or those beginning their own businesses.

Blue Ridge Community College 

The college’s Craft Beer Academy says it prepares students about brewing, cellaring, packaging and shipping – but you must be 21 years old to enroll. Blue Ridge has also paired up with Appalachian State so its associate in science degree – complete with biology and chemistry classes – also meets the first two years of coursework requirements for the BS degree in Fermentation Science from Appalachian State. It has campuses in Brevard and Flat Rock.


Heidi Finley is the editor of Carolina College Bound. Send questions or suggestions to hfinley@charlotteobserver.com