Home Brewer Seeking Brewery Startup Guidance Joins Students from Around the World at SDSU’s Inaugural Craft Beer Education Camp

Augustin Ruelas with Greg Koch

Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch (left) and Agustin Ruelas

This past summer, students came from all over the U.S as well as Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Australia, to partake in San Diego State University’s Craft Beer Connoisseur Camp (intensive preparation for industry exams such as Cicerone® and BJCP) or Brewery Startup Camp (everything you need to know to launch a brewery). Each offered eight days of intensive instruction by local industry superstars such as “Dr.” Bill Sysak, George Thornton and Dave Adams; and one free day to explore San Diego.

The camps were a brand new offering from SDSU’s popular Business of Craft Beer program, which provides hands-on training for those looking to enter or already working in the brewing industry on the business side, rather than the brewing side of operations. To make the program more accessible to beer aficionados worldwide, SDSU launched Craft Beer Education Camp. Wildly enthusiastic reviews from students indicate the concept is a hit.

San Diego native/L.A. resident Agustin Ruelas shares his experience at Brewery Startup Camp.

What is your connection to beer?
I got into craft beer while in college, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2010 that a good friend mentioned he brewed his own beer and that he would show us (a couple of friends included) how to brew if we bought the materials. We got a Belgian pale recipe from the local homebrew shop and the rest is history. We’ve now been brewing for six years and recently built our own 1 bbl system [one barrel brew system; 31 gallons] to try and scale some of our staple brews.

How did you hear about SDSU’s Brewery Startup Camp?
We’ve really been considering turning our hobby into a real business and while looking through our Facebook profile one day (www.facebook.com/brewjeria.brewers) I ran across the link. I contacted a few friends to get their opinions, including David Favela from Border X Brewing, and they said it looked good so I registered within a few hours of running across the link.

How far did you travel to attend?
I drove down from the San Gabriel Valley in L.A. County.

What was your goal in attending?
The goal was to learn more about the industry and what it took to open a brewery. Also, to be able to share what I learned with our brew project members and think about moving forward with plans to start our own brewery.

How did the camp meet your expectations?
It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made! It was certainly more than what I thought it was going to be.

Has your knowledge of craft beer been expanded exponentially?
My brain was put into info overload, but in the best way possible. The material, the instructors, the location (including off-site visits), etc. There are still tons of notes I haven’t looked through because I’m still digesting the course materials.

Were the offsite visits particularly illuminating – getting a behind-the-scenes look at the industry?
Yes, yes, yes! It was one of my favorite components of the brewery startup camp. Having the opportunity to get specifics about location, equipment, tap room management and everything else under the sun, from professionals, was invaluable.

Did you pick up any solid ideas about how to run your brewery?
We got a reality check, but in a good way. We know that quality beer and great service as well as community involvement will be at the core of our business model.

Can you speak to the caliber of the instructors?
The instructors were great, they all shared great insight into what it took for them to get their brewery started and/or get into the industry. Pretty much no question was out of bounds and they usually shared more than I thought they would be comfortable with.

What did you do on your free day to explore San Diego?
I’m originally from San Diego and still have a lot of family there. On my day off I was lucky enough to have my cousin and his girlfriend show me around San Diego. We started the day with breakfast at Super Cocina in University Heights and then made a quick stop at Societe Brewing Company for some Belgian-style brews. We then did something I’ve never had the opportunity to do, which was to play disc golf at Morley Field Disc Golf Course. After all that sun we headed over to Border X Brewing for a couple of drinks and capped the night off at Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista. Needless to say, it was a good day.

Would you recommend SDSU’s Craft Beer Camp to others?
Absolutely, without a doubt.

Save the Dates for 2017: Craft Beer Connoisseur Camp is July 26–August 3, Brewery Startup Camp is August 4–12. For more information, please visit neverstoplearning.net/craftbeercamp.