KALAMAZOO — In the four years since Kalamazoo Valley Community College launched its sustainable brewing program, it could use student-made beers for tastings and instructional purposes, but not offer it for sale in its on-campus full-service restaurant.
That resulted in beer getting dumped rather than consumed.
“We could sell alcohol to patrons, but we’ve not had the ability to sell the beer we brew in the sustainable brewing program as part of our offerings,” said Mike Collins, executive vice president of enrollment and campus operations at KVCC. “We could use it for tastings and instructional purposes, but we couldn’t sell it.”
Now that KVCC has secured federal authorization and a new state brewpub license, it will have the opportunity to showcase its student-brewed creations at its 418 Restaurant, located at 418 E. Walnut St. in Kalamazoo.
“(I)t is a huge relief to finally be able to serve the amazing beers that our students have been making and not let them go to waste,” Brian Lindberg, sustainable brewing instructor at KVCC, said in an email to MiBiz. “Our curriculum focuses on sustainable practices and this is another way that we can utilize what we teach with a hands-on approach.”
With the brewpub permit and its existing Class C liquor license, KVCC can sell outside alcoholic products and its in-house brewed beer. The license does not allow the college to distribute its beers.
Lindberg expects to fill all six taps at the campus bar with student-brewed beers.
“I try to be as unbiased as possible, but all the beers that the students have been producing are really good,” he said. “We have been taking home medals in a yearly college wide brewing competition for the last three years, being awarded a gold and silver last year. I feel like this is a testament to not only the program but the future success of our students and alumni.”
KVCC started the application process for the additional state brewpub permit at the end of February and received its license on Sept. 16.
“Hopefully, it will be a draw for the restaurant and the cafe and offer us an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of the beer we brew,” Collins said, noting the program’s award-winning beers. “We’re proud of our students and now we’ll be able to showcase that.”
Currently, 48 students are enrolled in the sustainable brewing program at KVCC. The program has graduated 64 people since its inception.
While the college is now legally allowed to sell its own beer, Collins was unsure when the products would be made available, citing the recent start of the fall semester.
“Hopefully, sometime soon,” he said.
Linberg added that the program could produce about 40 barrels of beer annually
“Obviously, there is always room to grow, but education comes first,” he said. “Brewing beer to be sold is not the goal of our program. We brew to further the education of our students.”
The KVCC program joins college-based brewpubs at Grand Rapids Community College and Livonia-based Schoolcraft College, both of which were licensed in 2016.
Students enrolled in GRCC’s Craft Brewing, Packaging and Service Operations certificate program brew beer to sell at the college’s Fountain Hill Brewery at 151 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids, adjacent to the Heritage Restaurant inside the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center.
Fountain Hill Brewery is staffed by students enrolled in the program and is open on certain days of the month listed on its website.
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