By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The National Brewer’s Association says there were at least 217 craft breweries in Minnesota last year. They brewed about four gallons’ worth of beer for every Minnesotan old enough to drink.

And there’s a new effort to train a more diverse generation of master brewers.

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At Surly Brewing — the third-largest brewery in Minnesota — a team of 50 work on the brewing side to get their iconic flavors just right.

“What does it take to be a brewer? At times you’re a glorified plumber, you’re a problem solver. Every day’s a little bit different,” said Ben Smith, Surly’s head brewer.

Even Smith acknowledges the profile of who’s making beer in Minnesota, and across the industry, is a little more singular.

(credit: CBS)

“The Brewer’s Association put out some numbers in the past that less than 10% of all production employees are women, even less are minorities,” Smith said.

So to attract more diverse talent at the brewery, they’re investing in the classroom at Dakota County Technical College.

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“What we’re looking at is a real cool adult dollhouse,” said Todd Jagerson with DCTC.

The college’s Brewing and Beer Steward Technology Program teaches students the art of beer, with mini versions of industry-standard equipment.

Surly’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Brewing Scholarship will put two students through the program, offer them paid internships and a pipeline to joining the team.

“It pays for full tuition and fees, encourages women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ communities to be more involved in the brewing industry,” said Kim Shaff with DCTC.

Bringing in untapped talent, to elevate the team.

“I do think that ultimately it will make us stronger as a brewery,” Smith said. “As a team we’ll get more ideas, more ideas leads to innovation and better products.”

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The Brew Master program says in the fall of 2018, all of its students were white. Last fall, about 1 in 10 were people of color.

Erin Hassanzadeh