Montana apprenticeship program graduates first brewer

To celebrate his graduation, Nicholas Balcken will likely raise a glass — of Blackfoot River Brewing Company beer.

On Friday, Balcken became the first participant in the Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program to receive a Professional Brewer Certificate. With this credential, the Blackfoot River Brewing Co. employee said, “I hope to be able to develop better beers and improve my recipe development.”

Balcken has worked as a brewer for the past five and a half years. Recently, he remembered, the Helena brewery was having a hard time finding qualified candidates for an assistant brewer position. “It’s such a fast-growing industry that we’re having to fill very highly skilled positions with people that we’re having to completely train from ground zero.”