The Brewery at the Culinary Institute of America(CIA) by Paul Leane, craft beer promoter
When you think of beer and food together, you tend to understand how perfectly they can pair, and with the growth of the industry, we’re seeing more and more restaurants taking advantage of this wave of curiosity and opportunity.
The Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, New York understood this trend of beer and food pairing and took the concept one step further…they installed their own brewery with the concept of training future chef’s on how beer is made so they better understand how it pairs with food and more.
In order to do this successfully, they needed to find a brewer who could not only teach, but had the experience of making great beer and running a brewery. Enter award winning brewer Hutch Kugeman, who has taken on the job with great joy and passion.
We sat down with Hutch to find out a little about him and why a program like this is so important.
What is the Brewery at CIA and why is it important?
The Brewery at the CIA is a teaching and production brewery located on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America that was built in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery. We produce beer for all 6 of the CIA restaurants as well as teach culinary students about the brewing process through our Arts & Science of Brewing course. Through our program we are able to expose the next generation of culinary leaders to brewing operations and how beer flavors are created.
How do you think it impacts the aspiring chefs coming out of the CIA?
We’re looking to elevate the image of beer in the culinary world by engaging our students during their education here at the CIA. Craft beer is already a part of our students’ lives and in many ways craft beer’s place at the table as an equal to wine is already happening at many fine dining restaurants. We’re looking to continue that movement by allowing our students to really learn the ins & outs of a small brewery. Many of our students will become great chefs but many also will become beverage managers, FOH (front of the house) managers, work in research and development, or start their own small businesses among other things. They can take that brewing knowledge with them into their new industries. A few of them are serious about becoming brewers and they can bring their culinary experience into our industry.
You’ve been a brewer for a long time, tell us about your journey?
It seems funny to me that at this point in my career I’m considered a “veteran brewer” as there are so many people that I look up to whom I consider to be the true “veteran brewers.” I feel like I still have so much to learn and so many areas where I can improve. For me brewing started with a college graduation present. I was given a home brewing kit by my mom (thanks mom!) and I began to experiment with it while I was teaching 7th grade in North Carolina as part of the Teach For America program. So you can say 12 year olds drove me to brewing! I moved to Portland, OR and while living there I really began to learn what great craft beer was (big thanks to Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale for opening my eyes). In 2002 I was lucky enough to get an entry level job with Darron Welch at the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, OR. He really started my education and I learned a real appreciation for quality and proper brewing operations from Darron. I still use much of what he taught me. In late 2002 I moved to Lake Placid, NY to work for Great Adirondack Brewing as an Assistant Brewer to Rob Davis. Rob was great with creating flavors and crafting tasty beers. But he allowed me to step in and bring some of my operational knowledge to the brewery. He really supported me as I was learning what goes into running a brewery on a day to day basis. He stepped back to focus on the restaurant and I took over as Head Brewer in 2004. It was during my time at Great Adirondack that I attended the American Brewer’s Guild class and was able to learn more technical knowledge from Steve Parkes. I already knew the right way to do things because I had been trained by good people, but I didn’t really know WHY that was the right way. ABG really helped me better understand what I was doing. In 2010 I went to Ithaca Beer Co with my friend Jeff O’Neil and got a taste of production brewing operations before heading back into the brewpub world as the founding brewer at Crossroads Brewing in Athens, NY. I had 5 great years working with Ken & Janine at Crossroads. They really trusted me to create their brand for them, and starting something from the ground up was challenging but very fun and rewarding. But in 2010 when the Brewery at the CIA opened and my current position became available I couldn’t say no. A chance to work with Brooklyn Brewery and the Culinary Institute of America while also getting to teach culinary students is really the chance of a lifetime. It’s been great so far and I think we’re really just scratching the surface of what we can do with this program. Where do you see the craft industry heading over the next 5 years?
I think these are interesting times in the craft beer world (haven’t they all been!). We’ve seen massive growth and huge boom of new breweries. Many of those new breweries are small and serve very their local communities. I think that’s amazing and it’s exactly the way it should be. However, on a large scale we’re also seeing signs of slowing of growth or even slight decline in sales by the large craft breweries. We’re seeing lots of larger craft breweries being acquired by the big brewing giants. We’re seeing mergers and creations of new co-operative companies by some craft breweries. The shelves are getting very full of many different high-quality beers. We’re seeing push back from consumers on seasonal beers and overwhelming (and sometimes confusing) choices. The hard-core craft beer crowd only seems to want what’s new, and the larger beer drinking public is sticking with what they already know because they number of choices (and high price points) are turning them off. Moving forward I don’t know if we’ll see many more acquisitions (and I think we’ve reached the peak of the valuations for those acquisitions) although there are a few big players with money to spend and a few big dominoes to fall among the large regional craft brewers. On the small scale, I think we’ll see the continued success of small breweries provided they focus on quality. Quality is a major concern right now…breweries that focus on being local have to be high-quality or it will hurt everyone. I think we’re already seeing a renewed focus on drinkability rather then huge hoppy beers. We’re already seeing lots of tasty Pilsners and low bitterness IPAs. My personal prediction is the return of the American Pale Ale; hoppy but with a nice malt balance.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the brewing industry today?
Go work in a brewery. Get any job you can. Work the bottling line, clean kegs, work in a tasting room, do the dishes. Whatever you have to do to get your foot in the door. It’s easy for people to romanticize working in a brewery, but it’s a hot, sweaty, dirty, physical job and it’s not for everybody. Be flexible and willing to move for the right job if you can. Every job should be approached with the idea of “what can I learn here?” Continue to homebrew, or start homebrewing if you don’t already. Read every book you can get your hands on. Once you’ve decided you like the day to day work and you want to be part of the industry then spend some money on brewing education.
You’ve recently been elected the New York State Brewers Association board of directors, how do you view the brewing industry in NYS?
I’m very honored to be serving on the NYSBA board with some of the true luminaries of the NYS craft beer scene. I think New York is in a great place right now. We’ve seen substantial growth in the number of breweries in our state but there is still room for more. We’ve got a very supportive state government and great leadership from the NYSBA. Governor Cuomo’s office and the State Liquor Authority have really helped spur some of that growth with supportive legislation and paired down regulations. But we’ve got some challenges in NY state too. NY beer doesn’t really have a “brand” or image that resonates with the public. New Yorkers (especially in NYC) have always focused on getting the very best of everything; the highest quality goods from all over the world. We just have to help them see that the very best craft beer is being brewed right here in our state, not across the country or across the globe. It’s a challenge but I also see it as an opportunity for continued growth. We can and will sell a lot more NY beer in this state!
For more information on the Brewery at CIA, please go here – https://www.ciachef.edu/student-brewed-beer-available/
Brewery at CIA
1946 Campus Dr
Hyde Park, NY 12538