SHU’s New Distillation Science Certificate Program

On Jan. 8, Sacred Heart University recently announced a new 23-credit Distillation Science Certificate program during the Connecticut Brewers’ Guild annual conference at West Campus. The program is the first of its kind within the state.

According to a SHU press release, the new program is designed to prepare students for entrance into the distillation industry. Besides learning the craft of producing, aging and blending alcoholic spirits and beverages, participants will be equipped with biology, chemistry, physics and engineering knowledge, as well as the business and operational skills to run a successful brewery or distillery.

“The Brewing and Distillation program at SHU exemplifies the University’s pioneering spirit and ability to identify and fulfill a unique educational need,” said John Rehm, professor and Director of the Brewing Science Program. “The program will continue to elevate the brewing and distilling industry in Connecticut and beyond by offering a source of professional knowledge and training through SHU.”

Rehm began his career as a brewer twenty years ago and helped to institute Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford in 2012. When SHU introduced its Brewing Science program back in 2020, Two Roads partnered with the university by providing space and resources for its Area 2 experimental brewery to become the SHU Brewing Science Lab.

Rehm cited his background in teaching on a collegiate level, passion for brewing and desire to give back to the local community as factors that drove him to pursue a position in the distillation education field. Since the program’s inception, he has taught several classes and was named Director last year.

Mark Beekey, Dean of SHU’s College of Arts & Sciences, was also involved in announcing the new certification at the conference and elaborated on its expected role and relevance across the campus community.

“Craft distilleries are experiencing growth in both sales volume and the number of locations each year,” said Beekey. “This certificate program has been designed to offer existing craft breweries hands-on training, enabling them to diversify into craft spirits if they choose.”

This training, which provides students with many professional skills, was made possible through the creation of a curriculum consisting of instruction on scientific brewing and distillation theory, ingredients, recipes, sensory analysis, sanitation, safety and quality control. Students can expect to earn their certification in just under one year over the course of three semesters, according to a press release from SHU.

“The Certificate in Distillation Science requires completion of the foundational core, advanced courses, as well as a field work class, operations course, and a working internship at a host distillery,” said Rehm.

Classes for the program will begin in late May and be taught by Rehm alongside Phil Markowski, co-founder and master brewer at Two Roads Brewing Company, decade-long industry professional Steven Andrews and co-founder and co-owner of Black Pond Brews in Danielson, Conn. Mike Teed.

These courses have been structured to help students succeed independent of their individual experience level.

“I’d never brewed before, but taking John’s class fully immersed me in the process from recipe development to the evaluation of our finished beer, all while shedding light on the scientific reasons for everything as we went along,” said former student Marissa Bentivoglio.

Bentivoglio was enrolled in Rehm’s BRS-111 Craft Beverage Brewing and BRS-211 Advanced Craft Beverage Brewing courses, where she learned both the “how” and “why” of the art. Since those seeking a career in this field now enjoy unprecedented opportunity, the university’s new certification is regarded as “a natural evolution,” according to SHU’s press release.

“The fermentation science we learn in the brewing program is applicable, and I think expanding to include distillation is a fantastic addition that is fulfilling a need while making students more marketable,” Bentivoglio said.

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