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CNM Students Win Top Honors at 2021 U.S. Open College Beer Championship

Students took home gold, silver, and bronze medals
CNM Students Win Top Honors at 2021 U.S. Open College Beer Championship
Cesar Quezada-Hernandez, left, BJ Beauchamp, and CNM Brewing Instructor Nick Jones

Sep 21, 2021

A number of CNM students won top honors at the 2021 U.S. Open College Beer Championship, the premier competition for students in a brewing school. Students from the 2018-2020 cohorts won a gold medal for their multi-year, collectively brewed  “Chef Ryan’s Favorite Sour, ” current student Cesar Quezada-Hernandez won a silver medal for his “La Frambuesa Imperial Stout,” and recent graduate BJ Beauchamp won a bronze medal for his “Itten Chiroku Pale Ale.”

“For us, these medals yet again reflect the rigor of the program and the high quality products that our students are producing,” says Nick Jones, the CNM Brewing instructor. 

Nick says the competition was also a great opportunity for students to get real-world experience before heading into their career fields. Both BJ and Cesar, for example, struggled to get their beers to come together properly and had to put in extra effort to make them work—a situation that professional brewers regularly face.

Cesar says he was ready to pour his beer down the drain because of various problems but put in an extra six hours on brewing day to make it work. What he came out with was a creative beer that was also the highest alcohol by volume (ABV) beer ever produced at CNM with an ABV above 10 percent. 

BJ had a hard time sourcing ingredients for his pale ale and even forgot some of his ingredients at home on brew day. He struggled through his beer with the help of other students in his cohort but also persevered. 

“Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” BJ says. “That beer tested my patience so I was pleasantly surprised that everyone in the class liked it and that it stood up in competition.”

Nick says this kind of perseverance will serve both Cesar and BJ well as they move through the industry. 

“Both of these beers are really good examples of how it happens in the industry,” Nick says. “They both had to learn how to roll with the punches.”

Besides the effort it took to brew good beer, Nick says the competition was a great way to teach students how to cater a beer to a particular category. BJ initially set out to brew a double pale ale but entered his beer as a standard pale ale because that’s where it ended up.  

"Brewing good beer that tastes good is a lot easier than brewing a particular beer that tastes good,” Nick says. “I tell the students to brew great beer and when all is said and done we can determine the style and enter it in the competition accordingly.”

The sour beer was a collective effort because high-quality sour beer takes years to produce. Students from the 2018 cohort started the beer during a brew day at Differential Brewing and students in subsequent cohorts have helped with everything from the aging to the flavoring. 

“To brew a sour beer the right way takes that much time,” Nick says. “There are quicker ways to do it, but that’s the wrong way and quicker beers would never win in this competition. It’s important that our students learn the right way even though it's very time consuming.”  

Both BJ and Cesar say they’re excited to take the momentum from the competition and carry it forward. BJ is back at CNM in the Culinary Arts program because he wants to eventually open his own business with beer and food. Cesar is working as a brewery assistant at Tractor Brewing as he completes the program.

His boss, TJ Frederich, the head brewer for Tractor, is also a CNM graduate and says it's inspiring to see the program continue to produce high-quality brewers.  

“For people like Cesar it’s awesome that he already has some success behind him as he enters the field,” TJ says. “When I went through the CNM program it was in its early stages and it’s been great to see how far it’s come and it’s been great to see them turn out students like Cesar.” 

Learn more about CNM’s Brewing program here.