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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Idea Whose Time is Right

Since I started writing this blog a couple of years back, I've made occasional reference to the risks associated with the rapid expansion of craft brewing in Portland. You tend not to make a lot of friends when you bring these unpleasant issues up, but someone has to do it.

A friend in the know recently told me we now have 61 operating breweries in town. Is that too many? If it isn't too many, how many is too many? Does anyone have a clue?

Listen, I'm not the only one concerned about this. I've talked to plenty of brewery and pub owners who privately worry about their financial futures in a crowded marketplace. It turns out there actually is more to staying in business than creating new and interesting beers. Go figure. In fact, Andy Crouch made reference to the increasing importance of good business planning in a recent Beer Advocate column. 

Now comes news that Portland State University gets it. The school is launching a Certificate program as part of its Professional Development Center that will educate brewers and pub owners (prospects and existing) on the business aspects of the industry. Kudos to my friend John Foyston, who first reported news of this program in yesterday's Oregonian. I urge you to read John's article here, because it contains all the details.

The Business of Craft Brewing Certificate is, at least for the moment, a standalone program that can be taken in live and online scenarios. This effectively means anyone can sign up for the classes. You need not be in a degree trajectory, although PSU students apparently can receive credit toward a degree.

The leader of the instructional group is Mellie Pullman, who has a lengthy background in beer and business dating to the mid-80s. There are four segments at the moment: Basic Business for Craft Breweries; Craft Beverage Business Management; Strategic Craft Beverage Marketing; and Finance and Accounting for the Craft Brewery. 

Why is this an important development? Because many people who get involved in commercial brewing have formal brewing training, but no formal business training. That means there are people out there wandering in a proverbial minefield of the unknown. PSU's new program provides an opportunity for those folks to improve their knowledge base and chances of success.

This is an idea whose time is right.

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