Six years ago, Drew Kostic was a struggling lawyer by day and passionate homebrewer by night. One existential crisis, a trip to Poland and an Auburn University Brewing Science graduate certificate later, he’s now the holder of New York City’s grand prize in brewing.
The Ruppert’s Cup is awarded once a year to the best brewery in New York. Breweries are judged by the public on their events at NYC Beer Week, can design, taproom and brews made from New York hops and malt. This year, Circa Brewing in Brooklyn, New York, was named the best brewery in the city, where Kostic is responsible for all brewing operations. Circa also boasts a pizzeria and event space, which Kostic helps grow as a manager.
“Personally, the Ruppert’s Cup truly stands as the culmination of so much blood, sweat, and beers,” Kostic said. “If I could tell the struggling lawyer back in 2014 that he would be declared the Ruppert's Cup champion in a mere six years, he'd think I was crazy, and mean for putting him on. This has not been an easy journey – not by a long shot – but this cup acts like a physical signification of what an important and worthwhile one it has been for me.”
Kostic’s brewing journey began on his 21st birthday, when a friend gave him a homebrewing kit. The first batch, Kostic said, went flat within a week, but sparked his interest in the craft. Then, after he graduated college, he traveled to Poland on a Fulbright Scholarship, where two friends introduced him to the world of Belgian beer.
After that, Kostic said he needed a change. He still practiced as a lawyer full-time, but sought opportunities to turn his passion of brewing into a sustainable career.
“I was immediately drawn to Auburn both by the courses offered--a comprehensive view on both running the science and the business side of a brewery--and the ease at which I, as a full-time lawyer, could participate in the work remotely and in my off-time, which is a first for brewing programs. Moreover, I was overblown over the fact that all my professors were PhDs in their respective fields, but also homebrewers too. They had both the knowledge and the passion to really inspire you in this industry.”
The College of Human Sciences Brewing Science and Operations graduate certificate program blends the art and science of brewing. The curriculum is grounded in biology, chemistry, agronomy and business, including a required internship to give graduates the necessary hands-on experience they need to succeed in the industry.
By marrying traditional educational approaches through distance learning with real-world experience at Oskar Blues Brewing and the Alabama Brewing Industry, students are prepared to sit for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s, or IBD’s, General Certificate / Diploma of Brewing examinations. Located in the United Kingdom, the IBD is the world’s leading organization dedicated to the education and training of brewers and distillers.
Auburn University Hospitality Management Department Head Martin O’Neill said Kostic is a perfect example of the potential of AU Brewing graduates. “Drew has been a pleasure to work with since first expressing an interest in our program,” O’Neill said. “As I recall, he was working as a litigator in NYC and had a passion for home brewing. Let’s just say he didn’t derive the same level of satisfaction from his day job as he did from producing home brew. It was clear from day one that he had bigger ideas and plans for his future. He was a model student and is a great role model for all aspiring craft brewers.”
Kostic said Auburn’s brewing program taught him all he needed to know to break into the competitive New York City brewing scene. And now, as New York City’s best brewer, he encourages those on the fence to take the leap as he did.
“I once read a quote graffitied on a wall in Puerto Rico that said, ‘Time is your enemy - vive!’ That quote has stuck with me as a motivating factor to go out and seize my goals today, rather than wait for them to come to me,” Kostic said. “I encourage the same spirit in someone seeking to enroll in AUBrew. Especially in these unique times, you never know what's coming next, so take that first step now, jump in the deep end - there's no better time. Vive!”
For more information on the Brewing Science program, visit aub.ie/aubrew.
*Drew is currently transitioning to another brewery as he continues to share his experience through the documentary Brewmaster and other outlets.