The beer crafting industry is growing in western North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Community College plans to take advantage of that growth by offering an associate's degree in the crafter beverage industry, The Times-News of Hendersonville reported.
School officials expect state approval next week.
The Associate in Applied Science Degree program in Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation will be one of the few of its kind. The school joins Asheville-Buncombe Technical College and Rockingham Community College as the only three schools in North Carolina seeking final approval in the first year.
"I think it's a great idea for a school to start this kind of program," said Andy Cubbin, co-owner at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville. "I think it's growing about 15 or 16 percent a year."
Chris English, the college's dean of applied technology, compares beer and wine production in western North Carolina with Napa Valley, Calif., in the 1970s.
"I see a re-branding of ourselves in Henderson and Transylvania counties being something a little bit different," English said, "because forever we've been known for our apples and we'll continue to be known for our apples - that's a huge product in our area - but I also think now we have something else to offer. And I think it's a way to attract new industry to the area."
The degree offering comes after the school started the Craft Beer Academy earlier this year, a series of courses on the subject.
English said the brewing, distillation and fermentation program links the fundamentals and science of brewing with hands-on manufacturing skills.
The Asheville-Buncombe Technical College program is focusing on the sales and service side of the business.