ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) is adding a new facet to its Beverage and Brewing Program. It will now be jumping into distilled spirits.

“When I started in brewing, there was only three programs around the country,” said Antonio Fernandez. Fernandez is the lead instructor for the Beverage and Brewing program at CNM. “Very exciting for me to see just how much we can grow in the state,” he said.

Since 2016, the focus has been on brewing beers, but now they are looking to add a new beverage to the lineup with distilled spirits and wine production.

CNM has seen how the industry has grown, especially in New Mexico.

“We’ve blossomed the number of breweries originally and now we are seeing a huge uptick in the number of craft distilleries opening as well,” said Fernandez.

Inside their beverage lab, alongside all of their brewing equipment, is now a fully operating distiller. They hope this unique opportunity helps their students fill a gap across the state.

“The industry is going big, and there is a huge need for employees at all of the new companies popping up, and they all need experience,” said Fernandez.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games.

“You do need some background in math and science; there’s going to be quite a bit involved, this is pure chemistry and biology what we’re doing in here,” said Fernandez.

Right now, they have nearly 70 students in the entire program, but as they grow, they anticipate getting into the hundreds.

“We’re expecting that number to grow as we launch the distilled spirits program and grow further as we launch the wine production program as well,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez believes the future in the beverage production industry is looking bright.

“It’s very exciting. I came from that world myself; I was a head brewer at a brewery here in town and founded a distillery as well, so I’ve seen the scene grow over the last number of years,” said Fernandez, “It’s going to be really fun just to see what we can produce and my goal is to see New Mexico become kind of the center for the country’s craft distilling scene.”

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Helping future brewers and distillers, the distilled spirits program is officially launching in the spring.