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The Oregonian: Portland State puts craft brewing in business terms
Author: John Foyston, Special to The Oregonian
Posted: March 26, 2013

Read the original story and see a slideshow of photos here in The Oregonian.

Craft brewers are well served by higher education, but the business savvy needed to keep a brewery or brewpub profitable is often learned -- or not -- on the fly. Portland State University's new online Business of Craft Brewing Certificate aims to change that.

"You can learn the technical side of brewing at Oregon State University,  the Siebel Institute  or UC Davis,"  says professor Mellie Pullman,  who leads the new program for PSU's Professional Development Center. "We're focusing on the business skills that will make your brewery or pub more efficient and profitable. If you're not already in the business, the classes will give you what you need to create a viable business plan for a startup."

The program, which also has applications for those interested in the distillery and alcoholic cider businesses, is being offered online, "So we can reach people around the country and the world," she said.

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That kind of reach would've been wasted before the craft brewing revolution. In the late 1970s, the U.S. had about 80 breweries, a number that analysts expected to decline amid a wave of mergers. But just the opposite occurred, thanks to craft beer.

Today the U.S. now has more than 2,500 breweries, more than any other country, and craft brewing is the most vibrant segment of the beverage alcohol industry. Yes, megabrewers still make most of the beer sold but their market share was flat in 2012, while craft brewers saw a 17 percent increase in sales.

"We're located in downtown Portland, Oregon, the heart of the craft beer movement," PSU's Scott Gallagher said, "so it just makes sense that we help entrepreneurs become more successful by providing them real-world training and exposure to industry professionals.

"And even if you don't live here in Beervana, the courses are available online and can be accessed by anyone anywhere in the world."

Being in Portland means Pullman has access to a wide variety of industry partners. "We've already filmed a segment at Widmer Brothers Brewing and two at Hopworks Urban Brewery,"  she said. The growing list of future partners includes Rogue Ales, a stalwart PSU supporter; Bull Run Distilling; suppliers such as Great Western Malting; equipment builders such as JV Northwestand Metalcraft Fabrication; and smaller breweries and brewpubs, including Captured by Porches  and Migration Brewing Co.

The instructors come from within the industry. Pullman was a homebrewer who trained with Pyramid Brewing  in the mid-1980s to learn production brewing, a skill she put to use as a partner and head brewer at Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery in Utah.  She later earned her MBA and is now the Willamette Industries Professor of Supply Chain Management  at PSU. Marketing professor Alan Resnik worked at Widmer before PSU, and the accountants of Integrity First Financial,  who'll teach the finance and accounting segment, specialize in accounting for wineries and breweries.

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"A class such as this allows you to skip some lessons you might learn the hard way on your own," said Christian Ettinger, whose Hopworks Urban Brewery is renowned for its focus on sustainability. "When I was starting out as a brewer in Eugene, OSU used to offer short intensive courses, and this reminds me of how nice it was to be in an academic setting without the commitment of a four-year degree."

The degree may well come later, Pullman said. For now, the class consists of four segments: Basic Business for Craft Breweries;  Craft Beverage Business Management;  Strategic Craft Beverage Marketing; and Finance and Accounting for the Craft Brewery;  plus an optional immersion weekend spent touring breweries and suppliers.

"The entire program is online and noncredit," Pullman said. However, the business and marketing courses and an optional internship can be taken for credit by PSU graduate students or undergrads.

""The idea is that it's something sorely needed in our community," she says, "and we wanted to initially make it available as a professional development course, so you don't have to be a student enrolled at PSU."

The classes cost $2,800, and an optional immersion weekend runs $650. Registration opens Wednesday at Basic Business for Craft Breweries, a four-week course of four hours per week, begins Sept. 12.  

--John Foyston

Photos by Brent Wojahn of The Oregonian