Business Is Good, but Beer Is Better the other b-school
By Mark Borden

(FORTUNE Magazine) – We'll grant that the University of California at Davis may not be the first response that springs to mind in answer to the question "What is the best B-school in the country?" But if you're talking best beer school, you can be sure that Davis is the Harvard-Stanford-Wharton of its field. For almost 40 years, Davis has been turning mere beer enthusiasts into master brewers and sending them off to make Budweiser and Miller High Life, not to mention Sierra Nevada.

Now before you get the wrong idea about beer school, listen to Davis brewing science professor emeritus Michael Lewis: "Beer swigging is the least important part of the job. Beer can't consistently taste good without a brewer's having a broad background in engineering, biochemistry, and microbiology. It is essential to understand the science of brewing." So go to San Diego State if you just want to get looped at twice-weekly keggers; don't even apply to Davis.

Lewis got the Davis brewing program off the ground in 1962 when he convinced the academic senate that the 8,000-year-old art had a place in its agricultural curriculum. The (now) $50-billion-a-year brewing industry, he argued, needed a North American training facility. And so it did. Doug Muhleman, Davis alum and VP of brewing at Anheuser-Busch, says that the program has been a good feeder for the big breweries. "We get young men and women who already have a passion for the brewer's art. They sort of come prepackaged with a rigorous academic background in brewing." Anheuser-Busch wants to keep those human packages coming. The company has given half-a-million dollars to the program.

Salaries for brewers are not in the MBA stratosphere (Anheuser-Busch starts between $40,000 and $60,000), but there are entrepreneurial opportunities. Lawrence Miller (Davis '89) started Otter Creek Brewery in Vermont in 1991. Last year his company had revenues of $4 million. But only one thing really matters to a brewer. Says Muhleman: "I taste beer every day, because ultimately that is how I am judged." Beer every day? Sounds better than 80-hour weeks in a dot-com cubicle.

--Mark Borden