JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A distillery is certainly not your typical classroom. However, learning to brew craft beer is a lesson students at East Tennessee State University will soon be able to take.

On Wednesday, ETSU and Tennessee Hills announced a unique partnership to give students the chance to minor in “brewing and distillation studies” starting the spring semester of 2022.

“One of my favorite parts of brewing is the science and the process of it, while also being able to be creative at the same time,” said Danny Smith, head brewer for Tennessee Hills Brewstillery.

“It really fits what the university does best, which is to meet a regional need – a workforce need – and to develop talent to help fill that need,” said Dr. Kimberly McCorkle, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at ETSU. “It’s a minor we’ve heard is very interesting to students; it’s popular to students.”

The beer boom is undeniable. In 2020, the Brewer’s Association reports 55 million gallons were produced, that is nearly 2 million barrels of beer.

“It’s exciting to have such young faces around,” Smith said. “I didn’t get into beer until much later in life, long after I was out of school. Their enthusiasm, new ideas and techniques that they bring is inspiring to me.”

Some ETSU students have already hopped on the hops train with internships at Tennessee Hills Brewstillery this semester.

“One thing that surprised me was how much microbiology and chemistry is actually involved in this process,” said Ethan Becker, an ETSU senior and microbiology major.

The program is geared toward students of all interests, not just those who want to become craft brewers.

“This is just a unique way to be a part of the community because you are working with a local, downtown business and seeing how that works,” said Cassidy Blackwell, a junior and English major.

The courses are wide-ranging and will focus on the science of fermentation, Appalachian culture, business strategy, marketing and, of course, brewing.

“It started off as a hobby, but it may actually develop into a career because I’ve actually loved every step of the process that I’ve done here,” Becker said. “I came in not knowing much.”

More information about the course and enrolling can be found on ETSU’s website.