BDT Graduates Making Their Mark

April 05, 2021

James and Dorian in BreweryDorian Hall and James Ellison are on a mission to change the perception of craft beer, and more important, craft beer brewers in Metro Detroit.

Each is a recent graduate of Schoolcraft College’s well-respected Brewing and Distillation Technology (BDT) program. Already close (they are brothers-in-law – James is married to Dorian’s sister), they have a passion to make their mark through their own label, The Black Hop Brewing Company, and to raise awareness for a new path for budding entrepreneurs.

“There aren’t a lot of minorities in Detroit doing this,” Dorian said. “James and I are trying to bridge that gap, diversifying what craft brewery owners look like in Metro Detroit.”

Finding Schoolcraft College

Dorian found out about Schoolcraft College’s program by accident while he and his wife were enjoying a happy hour in Royal Oak. Dorian’s wife wanted to try a beer with a fruity taste and asked the server for a recommendation. The recommendation was a hit; after more conversation, the server revealed he was a student at Schoolcraft College “majoring in beer.”

“I thought, no way there’s a school that teaches that,” Dorian said. Intrigued, he called James about his discovery. After learning more about Schoolcraft College’s program, they enrolled in the spring of 2018. Both earned the Cicerone®* Certification Program’s Beer Server Certificate and TIPS® (“Training for Intervention Procedures”) alcohol server certification and were top of their class.

Passionate Instructors Focused on Your Success

James and Dorian appreciated the personal attention they received in the BDT program at Schoolcraft College.

“You can tell the instructors are incredibly passionate about what they do,” James said. “They are proactive about reaching out to make sure you’re succeeding.”

Dorian said most people don’t realize craft brewing combines elements of art and science – especially chemistry.

Schoolcraft College’s six faculty members have more than 100 years’ experience combined in positions across the spectrum of the craft brewing industry.

“Every instructor is in the industry,” James said. “They’re not just telling you something out of a book – they’re living it. They challenge you, but they also will be with you every step of the way.”

Before beginning their formal education, Dorian and James had experimented with a home beer kit. Although dissatisfied with the results, they were on the right track, but just needed a bit more of the expertise Schoolcraft College provides.

“We’re still home brewers,” James said. “Once you’re a home brewer, you don’t stop – you just buy bigger equipment!”

Focused on a Bright Future

Dorian and James wanted to learn even more about distillation of spirits, so they contacted businesses around Michigan for opportunities. They said Schoolcraft College’s excellent reputation helped open doors as they learned how to make award-winning vodka.

“Schoolcraft College has won 27 awards for their beer,” Dorian said. “That means they’re doing something right.”

And now Dorian and James are eager to put the knowledge they gained at Schoolcraft College to work with their own establishment and perhaps serve as inspiration for others to follow that path.

“People don’t know a program like Schoolcraft is out there, and yet it’s right here in their local county,” Dorian said. “Schoolcraft College broadened my horizons and will open your eyes to realize craft beer doesn’t have a ‘look.’”

James is ready for what promises to be an exciting next chapter.

“Our biggest mission is to open a new avenue for everybody who wants to step up and do something different,” he said. “Follow your passion. Schoolcraft allowed us to do that.”

*A Cicerone is an expert in pairing beer and food, among other abilities.