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Beers in the classroom

By Joseph Basco, Staff Writer
Have you ever wanted to guzzle down an ice cold brew during class? If so, then “Craft Beer Brewing 101” has the hook up.

Luciano Scremin, co-owner of the Jacksonville Beach pub Engine 15, is the instructor of this six-week long beer-making course.

“My father is a college professor, and I was a flight instructor for many years,” Scremin said. “Teaching is in my blood.”

In this course, students learn the principles behind beer styles, recipe formulation, raw materials, fermentation and packaging as they apply to micro-brewing. They also get to use the brewing equipment located in the back of the pub. The reward at the end of the course is not only a case of student-brewed beer but the knowledge to make more of that craft-brew goodness at home.

George Eckenrode is a craft beer enthusiast who signed up for the class as soon as it appeared on learnjacksonville.com. He and 19 others closed the class registration in less than three weeks, said Valerie Murphy, program director for the UNF Division of Continuing Education.

Eckenrode said he signed up for the class right away because he wanted to learn every aspect of brewing beer.

Craft beer is distinct from the likes of mass-produced macro-brews.

Craft beers are created in small batches. The smaller nature of the process allows for craft-brewers to think locally. Brewmasters like Scremin and co-owner Sean Bielman brew onsite, and allow others to brew there as well. This is what’s called a B.O.P, or brew on premises. Engine 15 is the only one of its kind in Jacksonville.

Engine 15’s product is quality craft beer made by locals, for locals, Bielman said.

“These are not products with an American name brewed in China or Bangladesh,” Bielman said.  “These are craftmade, handmade American beers that can’t be forged.”

Scremin said the craft-beer industry is a booming business, and within 10 years, the beer aisle landscape at grocery stores will look much more eclectic.

“The craft beer industry is at a 15 percent increase year to year,” Scremin said. “That’s pretty significant market gain, especially in this economy.”

The filled-up class takes place Monday nights at Engine 15 until Oct. 17. This class is part of LEARN Jacksonville, a program designed by the UNF Division of Continuing Education.

Tim Giles, director of the UNF Division of Continuing Education, said LEARN Jacksonville has classes that cater to everyone aged 10-90. Some of the classes are “YouTube for Business and Pleasure,” “Achieving Inner Peace and Tranquility” and “Crash Course in Screenwriting.”

Valerie Murphy is the program director of LEARN Jacksonville. She said the wine tasting classes have been successful.

“We’ve had those for at least three years now,” Murphy said. “They’re either a one day class about [wine production regions] or a three week class about wine essentials.”

“They’re great resources that students are unaware of,” said Leshell Hartney, senior information specialist of the Division of Continuing Education.

Demand for the fall class was high enough for Scremin and LEARN Jacksonville to plan another one in spring 2012. Scremin said he plans to increase the class size to 30.

Until registration for the next class opens, customers can have a brew day at Engine 15. The establishment lets customers brew their own choice of beer on premises as long as they set up an appointment in advance. Beer choices are placed in different price tiers ranging from $98 to $155. Some varieties include Bavarian Hefeweizen and Oak Aged Imperial Stout. The staff at Engine 15 guides beer-hounding patrons along the three-hour process, so amateurs have no worry.

Scremin said business at Engine 15 is growing exponentially. He intends to double the size of the pub by next year. The pub will merge with the vacant business space next door, he said. This will allow for bigger brewing equipment that will yield eight barrels per batch. The expansion will also increase the number of taps at the bar from 35 to 60. Until then, customers can continue to stop in and have a cold one brewed on premises by the Engine 15 staff.

“The next time you have a craft beer after taking this class,” Scremin said, “you can appreciate how much work and effort the brewer put into that.”

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