If you happen to ponder the options for “craft beer education” in Cheney, you might be forgiven for thinking NorthStar Taps rather than Wellness and Movement Sciences, an Eastern Washington University department offering degree programs such as exercise science, health and physical education, and therapeutic recreation. But if you consider the connections among recreation, the hospitality industry and agriculture—perhaps while sipping on a perfectly chilled glass of Chuckanut Vienna—then formal learning about lagers (and etc.) suddenly begins to make more sense.
Enter EWU’s Chris Cindric, a senior lecturer in recreation and leisure services who is brewing up a tasty new class for the fall: Craft Beer Evaluation and Service. His goal is to broaden his students’ understanding of craft beer, from grain to glass, and its connection to agriculture and recreation.
“I’ve always felt like there’s this amazing opportunity to connect recreation with agriculture,” Cindric says. “Europe does it exceptionally well—there’s biking and hiking that finishes with great food and drink.”
The class will focus on the essentials of craft beer, including its history, styles, origin, qualitative and quantitative characteristics, ingredients, and the brewing process. Beer service, glassware, flavor and evaluation of quality will also be on the menu. Cindric says he wants to ensure his students learn to focus on quality over quantity, local over global, and taste over (what he describes as) “tasteless.” He says students will have the opportunity learn from local craft brewers, maltsters and growers who are having a profound impact on the local craft beer industry.
“What’s pretty unique about Spokane right now is that you can have a fully local pint,” Cindric says. “I’ve actually had a beer at Mountain Lakes with the brewer, the maltster and the farmer, who all contributed to that single beer, drinking that beer with me. And that’s pretty powerful!”
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, EWU has decided classes will remain primarily online for fall quarter. For that reason, Cindric has had to make a few adjustments to his plans for the class. He originally hoped to do several field trips to visit local breweries and grain farms.
“I’m not going to be able to have people visit all of those places, but I will be able to have a class that takes place where I’m at the brewery or we have the brewer, maltster or farmer on as a guest on Zoom,” says Cindric. “We’ll lose a little bit of the personal connection but the content will still be there.”
Craft Beer Evaluation and Service (RCLS 496-001/CRN: 22347) will be a 2-credit class offered on Mondays from 5-7 p.m. in the fall. Students must be over 21 years old to enroll and, as part of the class, must pass a test to obtain their Mandatory Alcohol Servers Training (MAST) permit. The MAST permit is required by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board for service of alcohol in Washington.
Cindric’s love of beer keeps him rooted in the Spokane area brewery industry. When he’s not teaching classes at Eastern or managing the WAMS Challenge Course, he hosts a monthly podcast, “Wheat, Wheat… Don’t Tell Me!” at Mountain Lakes Brewing Co. in downtown Spokane. Unfortunately, the live podcast is on hold due the coronavirus restrictions. But once guests are able to safely gather at the brewery, he says, he and his partners plan to resume the production, which combines interviews with fun-facts and trivia competitions.
As Spokane County prepares to enter phase two of the state’s Safe Start Washington recovery plan, Cindric is hopeful that breweries will continue to thrive in the area.
“One thing that’s been inspiring is the support Spokane still has to buy local,” he says. “It’s pretty amazing when you go down to breweries for takeout and people are buying growlers and gift cards and merchandise—everything they can do right now to support the local breweries.”