A Vancouver-area university will roll out a diploma program for students wanting to hop in to the exploding craft brewing industry.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has announced it will offer a two-year Brewing and Brewer Operations diploma beginning in September 2014.

Business is booming for B.C.’s many craft breweries, and KPU’s Dean of Science and Horticulture said that’s why the institution is now offering formal training for would-be brewers.

“We just got some ideas going together, we met with many of the local brewers and we’ve partnered with the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild,” said Betty Worobec. “The overwhelming support and enthusiasm from every brewery that we’ve talked to has certainly made us realize that we’re doing the right thing at the right time.”

The B.C. Liquor Distribution branch has reported an average 20 per cent growth in craft beer sales each year since 2006, while larger breweries’ sales have fallen flat or taken a dip.

The new Kwantlen program will provide courses in microbiology, chemistry, business ethics, sensory evaluation and even marketing, with students in their final year developing a signature beer from start to finish.

Only 35 students will be accepting for the first class – and many of them are expected to hit the ground brewing as soon as they’re finished.

“The prediction is the craft brewing industry in the province is just starting to take off, so it’s not just a flash in the pan,” Worobec said.

Local brewing companies are lapping up the news, saying it’s about time B.C. got its own training program in the booming industry.

“Right now you’re getting a lot of people who’re applying without any kind of experience,” said Nicholas Bolton, head brewer at Big Ridge Brewing Company. “Once you can get a course behind it… I think it’s going to help out the brewing industry quite a bit, and you know that people coming out of this course are going to be able to produce top-quality products.”

Bolton will serve on an advisory committee for the new program. The brewmaster said he had to travel to Chicago to learn the art because there weren’t any similar programs in the province. With demand surging for local suds, Kwantlen’s timing couldn’t be better.

“I don’t know the exact number, but there’s at least a dozen breweries that are in the works that’ll be starting up in the next year or so,” he said. “There’s the culture for it, everybody wants craft beer around now.”

A state-of-the-art brew laboratory will be built on KPU’s Langley campus in time for the start of the program, which will include a summer work placement.

Courses include History of Brewing, Calculations and Recipe Formulation and Advanced Sensory Evaluation.

Students are required to be at least 19 years old on the first day of classes.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Peter Grainger