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Central Michigan University will soon offer fermentation science program

With the brewing industry growing in the state of Michigan, Central Michigan University will soon offer a certificate program in fermentation science through its College of Science and Technology.

As a kid growing up in Michigan, I traveled many times with my parents to their alma mater, Central Michigan University. We would attend the occasional football game on weekends and march with the band back to “the rock” after the game. I have fond memories of my uncle who was a “marching chip,” as they called band members. After high school, many of my class mates headed to CMU to continue their education, but I instead began my freshman year at Hope College.

There are other programs available for those interested in beer and brewing, such as the Cicerone Certification Program and the Siebel Institute of Technology which has been teaching brewing science in Chicago since 1872.

According to the Brewers Association, brewing education programs are also currently offered at the University of California–Davis, University of California–San Diego, Oregon State University and Central Washington University

However, educational opportunities for Midwest brewers have not kept pace with the growth in the expanding beer industry, especially in the state of Michigan. CMU stated that the program will be the first of its kind in the state, and one of six in the country to offer hands-on education focused on craft beer.  

“The undergraduate certificate in fermentation science will fill a need in the state and across the region for students to learn the science and technology underlying brewing,” Cordell DeMattei, CMU director of fermentation science, said in a comment. “This opportunity expands CMU’s leadership in the sciences and provides the training needed by future leaders of the craft brewing industry.”

Again according to the Brewers Association, the Michigan craft brewing industry contributed 11,666 full-time equivalent jobs and had about a $1 billion economic impact in 2012. Because of these numbers, Ian Davison, dean of the College of Science and Technology, sees a demand for such a program in Michigan.

“As of 2013, Michigan ranked fifth in the nation in number of breweries, behind only California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington,” Davison said.  “This growing industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy, supporting jobs in breweries as well as in farms producing barley and hops.”

As with other university programs, students will first need to apply and be accepted to CMU. To complete the 16-credit-hour certificate students would study biochemistry, chemistry and microbiology, and take five proposed advanced science classes that would cover all steps of the brewing process, including:

  • SCI 320: Fundamentals of Fermentation Science, a lecture course that will cover the chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology involved in the entire beer brewing process;
  • SCI 321: Fermentation Analyses, a laboratory course in which students will perform analyses that brewery labs conduct on ingredients, processes and final products for quality control and assurance;
  • SCI 322: Applied Fermentation Science, a laboratory course in which students will use their learned fermentation science knowledge to design and brew beer, follow guidelines for specific beer styles, learn how to judge beer, and brew for competitions;
  • SCI 323: Brewery Facilities and Operations, a lecture course on the engineering of brewery equipment and design that will cover equipment choices, practical usage and maintenance of a modern, production-scale brewery; and
  • SCI 420: Internship in Fermentation Science, a minimum 200-hour internship in a production brewery or brewing-related business.

Local brewery Mountain Town Brewing Co. and Hunter’s Ale House, (a local craft beer centered pub featuring 24 taps), will partner with the university by providing real-world experiences for students at their businesses.

Students will be required to do an internship of at least 200 hours in a production-scale facility. The proposed program is going through the academic curriculum process and is expected to enroll its first class in fall 2015.

“I am most excited about developing the scientific research component with CMU,” said Jim Holton, a 1995 CMU alumnus and owner of Mountain Town Station Brewing Co. and Restaurant and Mount Pleasant Brewing Co. “To me, the more beer you brew, the better you get at it.”

CMU’s certificate program in fermentation science is expected to appeal to students both in and outside the sciences as well as to brewery employees looking to advance their careers. Those who take the program would be prepared for industry-wide certification tests such as the Institute of Brewers and Distillers’ general brewing certificate and diploma in brewing modules.

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