Grand Rapids is now home to another new brewery—but this one might not be one you know about, yet. Say hello to Fountain Hill Brewery & Peter’s Pub, the first and only federal and state-licensed brewpub owned and operated on a college campus.
Grand Rapids Community College has long had a strong culinary program. The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education (SICE) is considered one of the best culinary schools in the country, producing passionate, talented Chefs who make some of our favorite meals, locally and beyond. Peter Secchia, a native Michigander and philanthropist, is a strong supporter of both food and drink, and recently he realized that SICE was missing a critical component to their program—“beerducation.”
In Beer City USA, it simply is good business sense. Enter a grand plan to create something entirely new, from curriculum to equipment to final product. An ambitious undertaking, but what better place to find the right men and women for the job than Grand Rapids?
The brewhouse itself is a three-barrel Craftwerks system, brewing about six kegs per batch. Those who complete the program receive a certification for Craft Brewing, Packaging, and Service Operations. While student run and led, the gentlemen at the helm is Mr. John Stewart, probably familiar to most MittenBrew readers as Director of Brewing Operations at Perrin Brewing Company.
“This is truly a unique experience going from grain to glass,” Stewart shares “While the focus is primarily brewing, we have a wider range of what we are teaching. We have students who are doing internships with distributorships, working with the local hop fields—so some of those side industries that are sprouting up in West Michigan around brewing—these students are developing relationships with them. Not everyone is specifically looking just to brew. The breweries in West Michigan are exploding, but so are all these industries that they are supporting.”
GRCC is very much work-force driven, and the practical, hands-on experience that students receive in the program is to the advantage of those in the industry who are looking to hire new recruits, and to the students who complete the certification.
Talking with Jacob Derylo, Head Brewer at Brewery Vivant– during the grand opening, he shares the same sentiment. “I think it’s great. There are breweries opening up, and we obviously need brewers to fill those roles. Having a pool of applicants with some practical experience on actual brewery equipment can definitely be a benefit.”
The ribbon cutting was a great opportunity to hear from those who carved the path for the program and the students themselves, as well as tasting the product the students put forth- it’s all about the beer, of course!
On tap during the ribbon cutting were 8 different brews—Pete’s Wheat (Hefeweizen), Dum Blonde (Blonde Ale), Secchia Scottish (Scottish Ale-on CO2 and Nitro), Sweet A IPA (American Style IPA), Baltic Raider (Baltic Porter), & Fruits of our Labor (Fruit Ale).
The students in the program range in age and gender (yes, there were two women in the program), and they were happy to talk shop about the beer and their reasons for seeking certification. Jason Richards, who currently works at Founders, said he “wanted to gain more tools in my tool belt to become a better asset to my company.”
Other students such as Stephen Holden decided to pursue their passion. Quitting a job in banking, he decided to combine his previous degree in Marketing with the knowledge gained from the program to find employment that was more fulfilling than crunching numbers.
Keeley Dunn simply enjoyed the world of beer and wine. Currently working at a liquor store, she decided to pursue this program as part of her 10 year goal to eventually brew professionally.
If you’re downtown looking for a different spot to try some beers, don’t neglect Fountain Hill Brewery. Try a pint and provide feedback to your bartender. This is a classroom, after all.
Fountain Hill Brewery is open to the public from 5:30-8:30 PM on Thursdays and Fridays. For more information, visit here.
Images courtesy Fountain Hill Brewery