Brewing certificate can be earned by students


Students in the Distillation, Wine and Brewing Studies certificate program can study at UK’s winery, located at South Farm. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

Hannah Trusty

Students interested in pursuing a career in the booming distillation and brewing industry of Kentucky can get hands-on learning and real-life networking by obtaining a Distillation, Wine and Brewing Studies undergraduate certificate.

The certification is a 12-credit-hour multidisciplinary program with three different tracks: distillation, wine and brewing. It is offered through the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Program director Seth DeBolt said he came to the university more than 10 years ago and wanted to create a program for students to get into the industry.

“It’s a world-famous, global industry with lots of opportunities. I was amazed there wasn’t anything to support the industry here,” DeBolt said.

The certification was created in 2015, pulling existing courses from across campus into a cohesive program. This multidisciplinary background is reflected in the variety of classes offered.

“Some classes have small stills and chemical analysis equipment, others teach social sciences, marketing and tourism, sensory analysis, food fermentation, sanitation and some are set in the field,” DeBolt said.

The program also offers students a chance to network in their field of study, said Ryan Baumgardner, a former student who now works at the Talon Winery as the Wholesale Manager.

“My favorite part of the program was the opportunities to go out and meet people in the industry,” Baumgardner said. “Being able to see things first-hand is important and while on those field trips you might make a connection with someone who can get you a job, or at least an internship for a hands on experience.”

Another graduate, Jonathan Seppenfield, who now works for Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, advised that anyone with any major can learn from the program and that there are lots of opportunities to be creative with the certification.

“Go in with a very open mind,” he said. “You could walk in deadest on opening your own marketing business designing labels for wine bottles, and graduate with a degree in chemistry because during the program you got super interested in the science behind fermentation.”

He said he believes that every student should take a few classes in the program to “keep your creative mind open during all the overbearing classes college students take day in and day out.”

DeBolt said the hands-on approach, as well as the emphasis on workforce training and networking, is what makes the program so successful.

“Students are being hired right out of the program,” DeBolt said.

Another graduate, Aaron Kleinhelter, who is now working at Jeptha Creed as an assistant distiller, said the certification was a way to get his foot in the door of the industry.

“I faced the constant struggle of employers wanting people with experience but not wanting to give you the experience if you did not have any,” he said. “I saw the certificate as a way for me to at least have something on my resume to show that I had some education and interest in distillation.”

The program offers an introductory course for those who might be interested but are not yet sure. The course includes an overview of all three tracks.

“Any advice I could give students interested in the program would be to do research, experiment, and try things out,” Kleinhelter said. “Nothing is ever gained from not trying something. At least if you try and don’t like it then you are just back to where you started.”