IT Carlow rolls out a crafty course for brewers
It is the course of many students' dreams - where they cannot be accused of wasting their college years drinking beer.
Ireland is to get its first Bachelor of Science honours degree programme in brewing and distilling next year, to help meet the rapidly-growing needs of industry.
The course, which is limited to 18 places, is building on a long tradition in biosciences at the Institute of Technology, Carlow.
The college is rolling out the new, four-year programme for 2017 CAO applicants. The level of demand for the course will determine the CAO points necessary.
IT Carlow president Dr Patricia Mulcahy said the college was ideally positioned to establish itself as a centre for teaching and learning in both brewing and distillation.
She said the new programme would target both national and international learners.
Among those endorsing the course is Bord Bia, whose drinks sector manager Denise Murphy said the industry was in "desperate need of this type of initiative".
It is coming onstream as brewing and distilling undergo a renaissance in Ireland, with 28 whiskey and gin distilleries now operating or being developed, and a massive growth in craft breweries.
Brewing activity in Ireland now ranges from small lifestyle producers to microbreweries, to larger indigenous players and to the major producers
The Irish beer sector employs 2,000 people and supports thousands of farming families, who grow the necessary crops.
Whiskey exports have grown since 2009 while an increasing variety of craft gins are also emerging and direct employment in distilling is expected to grow 30pc in a decade.
The Department of Agriculture's Food Wise 2025 National Plan envisages huge opportunities in the whisky and craft beer sectors, with plans to double whiskey exports and to increase the number of microbreweries to 100.
According to Food Wise, emerging markets in Asia and the explosion of craft alcohol markets in the US provides Irish companies with enormous potential to expand.