The scene may look like something out of a Harry Potter book: Ingredients are strewn everywhere and students are standing around stirring mixtures in bubbling kettles.
But these students are brewing a different kind of potion.
In the confines of a classroom, students learn how to brew, ferment, package and evaluate microbrew-style beers and ales.
Dave Davis, a graduate student, is the primary instructor and brewmaster of the FT480 Brewing Science & Technology. He originally proposed the idea of having a brewing class to Jack Avens, the coordinating professor of the class.
“A few schools have brewing classes, including the University of California at Davis. It was a pipe dream and it went from there,” said Davis, who is earning his master’s in cereal science and has been brewing for more than a decade.
FT480 is offered by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, in the College of Applied Human Sciences. It is only offered in the fall and has a limited enrollment of 20 students.
Despite the course’s name and “image as a beer drinking class,” Davis and Avens work as a team to create an intellectual learning environment.
“It’s a very academic, science-based class,” Avens said. “There’s a textbook and we’ve decided to up the pre-requisite to organic chemistry for next fall.”
The workload includes homework problems, two midterms, laboratory reports, a practical and final.
Students brew a total of three beers including an India Pale Ale, an Imperial Stout and an Extra Special Bitter.
After making the beer, the students’ creations are subjected to an evaluation based on appearance, color, clearness, aroma, amount of foam (head) on top of the beer and, finally, taste, Avens said.
Throughout the semester, students attended field trips to local breweries. At Odell Brewing Co. students received the opportunity to be a part of the industry.
With President Doug Odell’s guidance, the class brewed Indian Pale Ale (IPA) on a five-barrel system. The beer, named Study Break IPA by senior microbiology student Adam Zandman-Zeman, has been on tap at Odell Brewing Co. and the RamSkeller since mid-November. It sold out at the RamSkeller last week.
“We put it on special because we wanted to give it some exposure,” said RamSkeller manager Geoff Valdez. “We had it exclusively. We’ve never had an IPA in the ‘Skeller before. We were excited to have the opportunity to work with academics.”
Zandman-Zeman has been home brewing for about a year. He said he heard about Aven and Davis’ class from friends and decided it would be a great way to earn some credits.
“India Pale Ale is bitter and really hoppy. It was originally made for shipping across the ocean,” Zandman-Zeman said. “IPA has a strong flavor and aroma. It also has a stronger alcohol content.”
Tom Herr, a junior open-option major, agrees with Zandman-Zeman about the flavor of Study Break IPA.
“It’s a nice, hoppy beer. I’m always looking for something different,” said Herr, who sampled the 7.5 percent-alcohol brew in the RamSkeller. “I walked in and saw it and decided to try it. I’d drink it again.”
The 22-year-old said the FT480 class sounded awesome and he would want to take it.
Despite the fact that after graduation Zandman-Zeman is planning on attending medical school, he said brewing will continue to have a special place in his heart.
“It’s interesting to learn what’s going on,” Zandman-Zeman said. “I want to create my own recipes now that I know the scientific process. Brewing will continue to be a hobby.”
Although FT480 is currently an experimental course – this is only the second semester it has been offered – Avens said he hopes to make it a part of the department’s curriculum.
“The brewing industry is so important to the city of Fort Collins as it, along with the city, have national recognition,” Avens said.
Staff writer Amy Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Brewing Process
as detailed by Dave Davis
1. Malting – Preparation of the barley for brewing by germination. This creates/releases the necessary enzymes and breaks downs beta glucans in the cell wall to make the starch available for hydrolysis
2. Mashing – A mixing of the malted barley and water at temperatures between 145-155 degrees Fahrenheit to activate enzymes for the degradation of amylose and amlyopectin (starch) to a complex mixture of carbohydrates (mainly maltose).
3. Lauter and sparging – The separation of the grains and the aqueous matter (termed wort) that includes carbohydrates, proteins, some fatty acids, color compounds and other compounds necessary for creating beer.
4. Boiling – The collected wort is brought to boil to achieve hop character (flavor, aroma and bitterness), sterilization, form color components, concentrate and drive off undesirable volatile compounds (DMS).
5. Fermentation – The hopped wort is cooled and aseptically (under sterile conditions) transferred to a fermenter and yeast is added. The yeast will convert simple sugars (glucose, fructose, maltose and maltotriose) into ethanol and carbon dioxide.
6. Packaging – After 10 to 21 days, the fermented beer will be bottled or kegged.