Twenty years of the World Brewing Academy (WBA). Dr. Zepf, how do you view developments since 2000?
Dr. Michael Zepf: The start of the WBA is based on an idea that most people shook their heads at. The founders were the managing directors of the Siebel Institute and the Doemens Academy at the time: Lyn Kruger and Dr. Fritz Briem. It is thanks to her foresight and persistence that their “crazy” idea became a success story and an institution that has become an integral part of international brewing training. The idea of the two oldest and most renowned brewing academies in Europe and America setting up a joint education and training program for professional brewers in English language and implementing this program on two continents was initially viewed with skepticism by many. However, from the very beginning, the popularity of the offerings and high enrollments, along with the wide acceptance of graduates in the marketplace has proven that the World Brewing Academy is truly a successful concept.
The program has even expanded over time...
Dr. Zepf: …and students can choose from a variety of course offerings, from the entry-level Executive Overview of the Brewing Process online course and, the intermediate level Concise Course in Brewing Technology, to the advanced programs such as the International Diploma in Brewing Technology and the Master Brewer program. In addition to face-to-face units, there is also the option of blended learning, which combines online sessions with live campus courses. The modular structure of the programs allows for flexible scheduling. Considering the multitude of nationalities of our students, the name we chose for this joint education agreement of the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Doemens Academy in Munich is appropriate, the World Brewing Academy.
The course for the future has been set. The Siebel Institute has moved into a new building in Chicago, and Doemens Academy is rebuilding in Munich-Grafelfing this fall. Can we assume there’s state-of-the-art equipment for up-to-date professional development?
Dr. Zepf: That’s correct, 20 years after WBA’s founding, students and instructors in both Chicago and Munich are completely new and forward-looking possibilities with their significantly expanded facilities. The long-cherished wish for a new home was realized in Chicago in 2020, and the new Doemens building in Munich-Grafelfing will follow soon in 2021.
How would you describe the WBA in 2021?
Dr. Zepf: In a nutshell, professional brewing technical training at the very highest level! A highly specialized expert team of experienced lecturers in both Chicago and Munich-Grafelfing is available to students who would like to learn the theoretical fundamentals with practical hands-on experience. The hands-on orientation of the programs has been a central feature of the WBA from the beginning and will be further expanded in the future.
What do you say to interested parties when asked, “Why should I choose WBA education?”
Dr. Zepf: WBA education is like no other, offering students the opportunity to receive professional brewing technology training in a concentrated form. The education at two renowned brewing institutes on two continents is truly unique and this combines “old” and “new” world perspectives on the teaching of brewing technology. The wealth of experience of the lecturers of both faculties is a guarantee for students looking for up-to-date professional development opportunities due to unequivocal acceptance of the WBA by the worldwide brewing industry.
The Corona pandemic has also affected the WBA’s training program. How did you manage the many uncertainties in Chicago and Munich-Grafelfing during the past year?
Dr. Zepf: The program which started in Chicago last winter had to be interrupted five weeks later in mid-March. The modular structure of the program and the locations on two continents proved to be a stroke of luck here, enabling us to continue in Munich in late summer. All students (from many different nations) were granted entry to Germany– through the initiative of Doemens – and able to continue the programs successfully without any lapse in training quality.
During this challenging pandemic era, webinars are a suitable means for providing continuing education. What is the benefit of online courses?
Dr. Zepf: For the past 15 years, WBA courses and programs have been offered online. Students can choose between in-person instruction or the online option. More than half of our enrollees were already using this online study option before COVID. Of course, our extensive experience of years in the field of online training also helped us navigate these difficult times, being the only option for knowledge transfer over the course of several months.
You are now offering a WBA-sponsored beer sommelier course, based on the successful long-standing program provided by Doemens Academy. How will this new initiative play out in North America?
Dr. Zepf: The Doemens Biersommelier training has successfully established itself in 17 countries and in eight different languages over the last ten years. Therefore, it made sense to leverage our excellent partnership with the Siebel Institute in Chicago, utilizing its infrastructure to integrate Biersommelier training into the WBA for transfer to North America. For this purpose, analogous to the successful WBA model, a modular structure and an online course for teaching the basics have likewise been developed. The Savour Academy team is already very much looking forward to the realization of this project on the ground in summer 2021.
The flagship program at the WBA is the advanced level training, i.e., the International Diploma and Master Brewer programs. How will you organize these advanced training courses in 2021?
Dr. Zepf: Due to the many ever-present uncertainties predicted for the remainder of 2021, the WBA leadership has decided to postpone our advanced in-person education until 2022. Based on last years experience and current vaccination issues, this is the safest option, and we should be running a full normal schedule next year.
Dr. Michael Zepf is the Managing Director of the Doemens Savour Academy.
This interview is extracted from the Doemens News