Breweries pouring funds into CSU beer studies

By Steve Graham

Bernie Sanders wants Uncle Sam to pay for public college tuition. Colorado State University has another benefactor in mind: Colorado’s beer industry.

In the past year, CSU has received $1.35 million from the three biggest breweries in Fort Collins to support the Fermentation Science and Technology program. Beer pros are also providing expertise and hands-on training. In turn, CSU is turning out graduates who can keep the beer flowing. 

All jokes aside, undergrads at CSU have majored in beer science since 2013. 

“We are learning about everything from starting raw barley up to the sensory characteristics of a final beer product,” said Lauren Sandell, a senior in the program. “We’re learning more than just the simple recipe that a home-brewer follows.” 

Sandell is president of the CSU Food and Fermentation Science Club, and already works at Blue Skies Winery in
Fort Collins. 

The fermentation program isn’t just about beer. Students are also making and studying breads, meats, cheeses, yogurt, wine and other fermented foods. 

The program includes courses in organic chemistry, microbiology and other hard sciences to help the students grasp all the reactions involved in fermentation. The business side is also covered, including packaging, quality control and production scaling. 

The students will soon have new research and lab facilities, thanks to New Belgium. The Fat Tire peddlers brew all their beer in Fort Collins (for now), just a short bike ride from the CSU campus. 

New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan personally gave $500,000 to the program, and pledged to match that total over five years through the firm’s philanthropy program. 

“When I was in school, there was no such thing as a fermentation sciences program,” Jordan told CSU’s magazine last year. “Our industry and the University have both come a long way in a relatively short time, and this investment will help support the next generation of brewers who will create and innovate well into
the future.” 

The gift will pay for an upgraded, renovated and renamed New Belgium Fermentation Science and Technology Laboratory, scheduled to open in August. 

A new student-run microbrewery in the student union building is also slated for August. 

Last year, Anheuser-Busch poured $250,000 into the program. Odell Brewing, Colorado’s third largest craft brewery, also donated $100,000 as part of an ongoing partnership with the fermentation program. 

Founder Doug Odell has long been a guest speaker in fermentation classes, and CSU students have helped at his brewery. 

In turn, a CSU fermentation alumnus, Linsey Cornish, is head brewer at Horse and Dragon in Fort Collins. 

Ben Jaacks, a third-year fermentation student, said the industry has been very welcoming and open with students. 

“Everyone knows everyone and is willing and excited to collaborate and teach the next generation of brewers,” he said. His goal is to help breweries become more sustainable in their materials usage. 

Sandell, the senior student, said Odell and other professionals are her favorite part of the program. 

“We have guest lecturers and speakers from the industry,” she said. “It’s truly great to be able to ask questions of the processes directly to a person who is immersed in it day to day.” 

-Steve Graham is a Fort Collins writer who enjoys the outdoors and great beer.