RIVER WEST — Kendall College students can study cooking, hospitality, menu curation — and now, beer brewing.
The culinary and hospitality school unveiled a new addition to its River West campus Wednesday: a partnership with the Seibel Institute of Technology, America's oldest brewing school, that includes a new wing and a small-scale, fully functional brewery.
The setup is a one-barrel system that was custom-made to brew small batches of beer in a professional-grade system, according to Marc de Jong, a rep for DMA Brewing Solutions, which manufactured the system.
Large-scale breweries like 5 Rabbit in Bedford Park use a 30-barrel system, de Jong said.
Kendall students over age 18 will be able to sample their beers and study flavor differences and pairings thanks to the "Academic Sip and Spit" law the college championed in 2012.
Drew Larson, a Kendall College alumnus, said that even if graduates don't become brewmasters, understanding the brewing process is an indispensable skill at a time when the beer business is booming, particularly in Chicago.
"The ability to learn how to manage and lead people while understanding what they're doing is invaluable," said Larson, who went on to become beverage director at Hopleaf after graduating. "People don't want to follow people who don't know what they're doing."
On the flip side, Susan Tinnish, dean of Kendall's hospitality management school, said the college anticipated a spike in applications from prospective students seeking beer-making training specifically once the program was up and running.
"I think beer expertise is going to be more in demand in the immediate future," Larson said. "We're such a culinary town that now it's almost a prerequisite that you have some kind of degree or certification just to get your foot in the door.
"Now that's going to start happening with beer. There's so many people that want to work as a brewer these days — If there's 20 people knocking on my door to scrub my tanks, now you're going to need a brewing education just to scrub my tanks. But you're going to get the job, and you're going to move up."
The college hopes to have their first student-made beer available to sample in the on-site taproom by May.