From Grain to Glass: New Degree in Craft Beer Industry

:: Thursday, August 25, 2016

A new degree program is on tap at Metropolitan State University of Denver. This fall, students will have the opportunity to hone their craft—in brews, that is—in Craft Beer Industry, the latest addition to the university’s growing Brewing Industry Operations program.

The degree is geared toward students with overlapping interests in the science and business of beer—those who want to master the unique microbiology and chemistry of brewing, and who aspire to bring a new brew to market. Courses include Fermentation Science, Brewing Science and Quality Analysis/Quality Control.

“With the popularity of craft beer around the country, breweries have been able to get away with producing average-quality beer,” said Scott Kerkmans, an instructor and director of the Brewing Industry Operations program. “Improving quality is very important to continued growth in the craft beer industry as palettes become more discerning.”

An on-campus brewing and analytical chemistry laboratory will help students in the program—and local brewers—make those improvements.

Certified by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the space will allow brew-makers to analyze the brewing process and test for calories, quality and yeast content. The TTB, a bureau under the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is the federal agency responsible for oversight on alcohol production and beer testing.

“We are creating our labs as a co-op partner,” said Joseph LaViolette, beverage lab coordinator in the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events. “Industry partners that buy a share and utilize the equipment will have their beer tested in ways they may not be able to afford while students get hands-on experience.”

The lab is expected to open in fall 2016 in MSU Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events Learning Center with corporate support from Rio Tinto Borates, a leading global mining group that focuses on finding, mining and processing the Earth’s mineral resources. The company donated about $26,000 in supplies, from sterile plastic glassware to large capital equipment such as sterile culture biological flow hoods, incubators and autoclaves.

“The donations help tremendously because we are starting from the ground up at building our brewing laboratory,” LaViolette said. “We have a fixed budget, and the Rio Tinto Borates donation gives us more flexibility.”

Industry partners are also on board with the new degree program. That includes Tivoli Brewery and Tap House, a full-production brewery that opened in MSU Denver’s Tivoli Student Union in 2015, the first of its kind on a college campus in the United States.

“One of things I am most excited about is students’ opportunity to create a beer from grain to glass,” Kerkmans said. “Students will source all the ingredients, create the recipe and take a new beer to market through a partnership with Tivoli Brewery.”

The partnership will give students access to Tivoli’s barrel-capacity brewing, bottling and distribution center. An annual public taste test will determine which beer hits the shelves of liquor stores throughout Colorado.

“Students will have an unparalleled experience to see how it is to make beer commercially,” Kerkmans said.

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U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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