By Stephanie Stevens
When Ramiro Salas graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. To keep his eye on the prize, he pursued an associate's degree in business administration and management at San Diego State University's Imperial Valley Campus. While he was in school, he started home brewing with friends, igniting his passion for craft beer.
In February 2018, after graduating from his associate's program, Ramiro and his friends opened a brewery together in Imperial Valley. Unfortunately, his partnership with his classmates took a turn and Ramiro was back where he started. Rather than give up on his dream, he moved from Imperial Valley to San Diego to complete his bachelor's degree at San Diego State University and consider his next move.
"To be honest, I couldn't be happier to have landed where I did. I'm now brewing and cellaring for Ketch Brewing," he shares.
That's when he found out about UC San Diego Extension's Brewing program and the Karl Strauss Brewing scholarship. Established in 2014, the annual scholarship award is funded by the Karl Strauss Brewers Education Fund, which was established after Strauss's death to provide financial and educational support to those pursuing a career in the brewing industry.
Tell us about your current job.
I began as a cellarman at Ketch Brewing when I moved to San Diego. Since then, I have slowly but surely begun brewing and hope to use my recipes soon and make some tasty brews to add to Head Brewer/Director of Operations Sam Billheimer's awesome lineup! (Note: Billheimer is also an Extension Brewing program graduate.)
What I most enjoy about my job is being able to learn from both my Head Brewer and Extension instructors, and implementing what I learn in my day-to-day work in order to strive for the utmost quality in all our products.
What was your initial career plan before college?
When I graduated high school, I actually thought about becoming a doctor. Then I changed my mind when I had to take some chemistry courses. If I would've known back then that a strong chemistry background would be incredibly useful now, I would have hit the books a bit harder.
What made you decide to apply for the scholarship to UC San Diego Extension's Brewing program?
Moving to San Diego to pursue a brewing career was certainly rocky as far as my financial situation. Brewing is amazing, but it can certainly be a labor of love when you have to start from the ground up in the industry. I couldn't be more grateful for having received this scholarship.
What have you most enjoyed about Extension's Brewing program?
I loved how I got to learn and listen to the lectures that were given to us by people who are literally the best in their field. Individuals such as Cutwater Spirits/Ballast Point founder Yuseff Cherney, UC San Diego alumnus and White Labs founder Chris White, and Ballast Point R&D/Specialty Brewing Director Aaron Justus – to name a few – who have an ocean of experience. Being able to have them as instructors was priceless.
How will this change your future?
Going through this brewing program has given me knowledge that I can apply directly to my day-to-day job at Ketch. However, as with everything, you can learn something new every day. I'm more excited than ever to continue my education after this program and continue to grow and become better at my craft. I plan to take some additional Extension business courses as well as microbiology and organic chemistry.
What are your thoughts on lifelong learning?
This question really resonates with me. I'm a huge believer in personal development and in becoming the best version of yourself. Many cultures have different names for similar philosophies, but it's essentially all the same. Every day work on improving and becoming better than you were the day before. Not only in your career, but in all aspects of life.
It isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but often the best lessons in life come from the hardest disappointments. Life is like the seasons, and we must learn and strive to do the best and be the best we possibly can while we're here.
Any advice for others looking to pursue this certificate about the benefits or considerations?
I would highly encourage anyone who is even remotely thinking about entering the brewing industry to enroll in this program. Whether you are in production, sales, marketing, serving beers as a tender, it does not matter. I can guarantee that the UC San Diego Extension Brewing program will prepare you and provide you with networking capabilities that you will not get elsewhere.
Are you a home brewer or a fan of craft beer? Tell us how you learned about beer and brewing in the comments below.