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Where to find hands-on training


Emily Divinagracia

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Hello everyone,

I have a specific, unusual question and hope that the folks in this very helpful and informative forum can give me a lead.

I'm a scientific translator (French to English) based in Belgium, where beer and spirits are among the country's top preoccupations alongside waffles, chocolate and complicated politics. It's also in close proximity to a number of places that produce an enormous range of fine wines and spirits.

For a while now I've wanted to focus on the spirits industry as an area of specialization, particularly the technical, regulatory and commercial/PR aspects of things. Since the best way of learning things is by doing them, is it possible to get some hands-on training (short stints, internships, apprenticeships, shadowing someone) in distilleries or micro-distilleries there, for someone such as myself who isn't, strictly speaking, an aspiring artisan distiller?

I'd like to start learning this in the US (as opposed to, say, France or Belgium, or in the UK) because, aside from being in English (it's easier to grasp potentially complex concepts in one's native tongue), it'll give me the chance to get acquainted with the way the industry works on your side of the pond, before I work my way through the European side of things.

I don't have any specific background in distilling or brewing, aside from being a consumer as well as my own readings for leisure, and the odd visit to a few local distilleries and breweries. I do however have a scientific background (undergrad in life sciences) in addition to my language training, and have worked on projects for the French national agricultural research institute, which also conducts plenty of research on the food and beverage industries. Needless to say I'm also keen on learning all I can about this, otherwise I wouldn't be asking!

Any and all help or information will be gratefully accepted.

All the best,

Emily

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There are a few suggestions that I have. First, I would recommend contacting and participating with several distilleries, as each distillery will have its own specialties and unique opinions/problems. What I mean by this is that a fruit distillery will have vastly different fermentation preparations and distillations then a grain distillery. Likewise a vodka distillery to a whiskey distillery.

Next, you may want to specify the area that you prefer to be in, East coast, west coast etc. Also, how long you want to participate. If you come into the distillery I work at, I will sit there all day telling you about the process and regulations as long as the day isn't too busy (we are open for tours and tastings, and I am a distiller as well as the retail/information guy). The above post mentions Dry Fly, they, as well as other distilleries do offer relatively intensive training seminars that are informative but require funds -- where as an informal meeting such as the one I describe is free, but most likely much less intensive.

So, if you wouldn't mind, I would recommend being a little more specific with what you want, and how much time you want to put in to learning distilling as an academic pursuit.

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Kent, thank you. The course sounds interesting, but as Collin mentioned, it's a bit more intensive than what I'm looking for, especially since this is primarily an academic pursuit - at least for now.

Collin, your suggestions helped me come up with a clearer description of what I have in mind. I'm basically looking for a "breadth-first" (as opposed to depth-first) research trip lasting a couple of weeks, preferably in the east coast, with informal visits of a representative sample of distilleries, both grain and fruit. I hope to have gleaned enough information through my own research about the basics to be able to ask pertinent technical questions when I'm actually onsite.

Dave, that's a very generous offer; I'll be in touch.

Thank you again to all for your replies.

Emily

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