A conversation over, well, a beer, in 2021 sparked a collaboration that ultimately resulted in the first keg of brew made by the students of Eastern Washington University’s newly minted Craft Beer Industry Professional Certificate program.
Chris Cindric, a 17-year EWU professor and director for the craft beer certificate program, started offering a class a couple years go geared toward educating community members about different kinds of craft beers, the history of flavors and things like bitterness and colors.
Then, No-Li Brewhouse owner John Bryant heard about it.
“I have a selfish interest,” Bryant said. “My mom and dad both went to Eastern.”
Supporting the program, which is the only one now offered in the eastern part of the state (Central Washington University also has a program), helped honor Bryant’s parents, but it also created potential No-Li employees.
This “will help create a labor industry and a labor pool to drive the local economy of all the craft breweries in Spokane, not just us,” Bryant said.
The culmination of that effort comes Monday as Cindric, Bryant and No-Li brewmaster Ty Lindquist will tap the first keg produced by the students at 5 p.m. Monday at No-Li Bier Hall, 1003 E. Trent Ave.
It’s a Belgian dubbel ale style of beer, which Lindquist explained comes from using a specific type of yeast. He said the beer has more of a malty, rather than hoppy, flavor to it.
It’s name: E Dubbel U.
“Chris (Cindric) came up with the name,” Lindquist said. “As soon as he said it, I’m like: We are done thinking.”
A new curriculum brewing
Eastern currently offers three classes as part of the certificate program. Overview of the Craft Beer Industry looks at the nuts and bolts of the economics behind craft brewing. The next class, Craft Beer Evaluation and Service, is more hands-on and teaches students how to work with kegs, equipment and the foundational concepts of brewing.
The last class, which Lindquist agreed to teach, is Essentials of Brewing. It goes through the production-level process and science behind making different kinds of beers and flavors.
“I’m probably a better brewer than a professor,” Lindquist said. “But it’s fun to share something you are passionate about.”
Lindquist previously served as the brewmaster for Lazy Boy Brewing in Everettn. Before that, he earned a degree in finance from the University of Washington.
“I knew I was never going to be crunching numbers,” he said. “But, I use it every day.”
Cindric noted that students who sign up for the Essentials of Brewing class must first complete a two-credit course on home brewing to give them a basis for the higher-level course.
“Some students look at it and say, ‘Oh. Beer,’’ he said. But some did not expect “a lot of reading and having a chemist talk about hops profiles.”
He said about 5% of the work in brewing is actually brewing. The rest involves relying on business principals, managing finances and employees, and distribution and procuring ingredients.
“People who go through it have the ability to use their minds and their bodies,” Cindric said. “You have to decide whether that’s right for you. That’s what we are trying to do, is expose them to this.”
Bryant seeded the program with a $10,000 donation and also purchased the one-barrel brewing system that allowed the students to create their E Dubbel U.
“That was critical for us to move forward,” Cindric said.
Eastern also received support from Dave Basaraba, one of the owners of Mountain Lakes Brewing. Cindric also got either technical assistance or support from Linc Malt, Iron Goat Brewing Co. and several other local craft breweries.
The students “get exposed to all these people in Spokane who made this their life passion,” Cindric said.
A labor of love
Starting a craft brewery has some of the same appeal that inspired thousands of would-be musicians to start garage bands.
But making a tasty beer and turning that brew into a business is very difficult process, Bryant said.
“The margins are thin,” said Bryant, who in 2012 purchased what had been Northern Lights Brewing Co. and rebranded it No-Li Brewhouse.
“You don’t do brewing to make money,” he said. “It’s a labor of love. There is already enough beer in the world. What’s your purpose? What makes your beer special?”
He also noted that Spokane continues to climb the ranks and is already being recognized as a craft-brewing destination.
“We want to raise Spokane up on the national level,” Bryant said. “It’s coming.”
As for the EWU program, Cindric said he hopes the next step is to make the certificate available to non-EWU students. That’s still a work in progress.
So far, about 40 students have entered the program, with 13 expected to complete it.
Bryant credited Cindric, who first started making home brew in college in 1990, for making the program a reality.
“Chris drove the program,” he said. “He persevered. I was surprised how fast the (university) administration jumped on this. He got it up and running.”
As for Cindric, he said the craft brew classes could not have been created so fast without financial and technical help from the industry.
“The program would not exist if John Bryant and I didn’t have that conversation in September 2021,” Cindric said.