Two Michigan universities offer new programs in fermentation science and sustainable brewing

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Eric Strader

Craft beer accounts for nearly 8 percent of beer sales nationally, with sales continuing to rise exponentially. Craft beer in Michigan has a $1 billion impact on the economy, the 10th highest state impact in the country.

For anyone interested in entering the booming brewing industry, two universities in Michigan will be offering new programs this next year.

But first, I want to say many thanks to all who sent in responses to the trivia questions last week. Most of all, thanks to all the readers who have made the past six years possible for Hop Notes.

There was a huge response to last week’s Hop Notes anniversary giveaways, mostly for the Iechyd Da growler and the Goshen Brewing Company swag. I tried to reply to all of you who sent answers to the trivia questions, but my apologies if I didn’t get to you.

Curious about the answers? Drum roll, please…

How many posts have been written since Hop Notes began as Beer Nuts on February 25, 2009? All responses came in low, but Jonathan Graber of Goshen did his math: 12 to 15 posts per month for six years adds up to 1,008.

Can you believe that as of Friday, Feb. 20, I had posted 1,251 articles on Hop Notes? Since Jonathan came the closest to the actual number (the next closest guess was 936), he has a brand new growler and gift card to fill up at Iechyd Da Brewing in Elkhart.

The next highest number of responses came in for the Goshen Brewing Co. growler and hat, for which you had to name two Goshen Brewing Co. beers.

I took the first two responders for these prizes and I wish that I had more to go around.  Eric Francisco got the growler and Joe Laskowski got the hat.

Congratulations to all of the others who won glassware and books last week. I will continue doing giveaways once in a while, so check back often.

And now for some news.

Central Michigan University’s College of Science and Technology is now accepting applications for its certificate program in fermentation science.

CMU’s program is the first of its kind in Michigan to provide a hands-on education focused on craft beer. It’s expected to appeal to students both inside and outside the sciences, as well as to brewery employees looking to advance their careers.

“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. “This opportunity expands CMU’s leadership in the sciences and provides the training needed by future leaders of the craft brewing industry.”

Closer to Michiana, west Michigan has developed a strong reputation for craft beer with well known breweries such as Bell’s and Founder’s, as well as many other small craft breweries.

As the site of the nation’s first higher education program in sustainable craft brewing, Kalamazoo is becoming an education destination for this rapidly growing industry. My alma mater, Western Michigan University, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, both located in Kalamazoo, are launching a joint program for 2015.

The sustainability component is what makes this program unique.

“Water use and water recovery are among the top issues among craft brewers around the nation,” said Dr. Edwin A. Martini, associate dean in WMU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “WMU brings the resources of a research university and a national reputation in water research and sustainability to the table and KVCC’s food science and culinary arts expertise is providing the entry point and first credentials for students. Knowing that the craft beer industry is key to our community and state’s economic development, we enlisted the help of our industry advisers and designed a rigorous science-based degree program that will help craft brewers address big environmental issues as they use the very best of brewing art and science in a program that can only be described as meeting the industry’s gold standard.”

Students may choose several different paths to completion, including one that allows one to earn an associate degree at KVCC, then move on to a bachelor of science degree that combines industry art and science with WMU’s national reputation in sustainability.

Upon completion, graduates can be hired in a number of different jobs including:

  • beverage distributors
  • breweries
  • brewpub restaurants
  • food packaging companies
  • government and nonprofit agencies related to food, beverage and sustainability
  • hops farms
  • malting houses

The brewing process for the programs will be taught on KVCC’s new campus in a teaching brewery designed with the comprehensive functionality of industry equipment and facilities that incorporate sustainable brewing practices. The facility will be critical to both schools’ efforts.

Hands-on experience, internships and an opportunity to understand every part of the industry are part of the plan.

“There’s a real spirit of collaboration in the brewing industry, and it’s one we’ve built into both schools’ efforts,” said Dr. Steven Bertman, WMU professor of chemistry and one of the principals involved in developing the degree program. “We’re learning how to sustainably grow an industry that is part of the overall health and sustainability of Michigan’s economy.”

Several Michigan breweries were started by Western Michigan University graduates, including Short’s Brewing Company, founded by Joe Short in Bellaire, and Paw Paw Brewing where owners Ryan Sylvester and Ben Fleckenstein, as well as brewer Trevor Klimek all attended WMU.

I know there are many many more graduates of both WMU and CMU out there in the brewing industry, and with these two new programs, we will begin to see more Michigan graduates all over the country making a difference in the brewing world.

For more Michiana craft beer news and commentary from Eric Strader, sign up for the Hop Notes email newsletter.
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