Students huddled around brew kettles and stills last week to whip up the inaugural batch of beer for Central Michigan University’s fermentation science program.
“These students worked last semester in lectures and labs to get a full understanding of the chemistry and microbiology behind the fermenting process,” said Cordell DeMattei, director of CMU’s fermentation science program. “Now, they get a chance to apply all of that to an actual batch, and it’s exciting.”
The first brew will focus on the use of different malts to change the flavor of the beer. DeMattei plans to have the class develop two more recipes this semester, one focusing on hops and the other on yeast. The program’s equipment, located at Hunter’s Ale House in Mount Pleasant, allows students to get hands-on experience with the process.
“These students are serious about understanding the science and technology behind brewing,” DeMattei said. “I hope to see CMU students leading the craft brewing industry in the future.”
The brewing process takes about three weeks to complete. After the beer ferments and ages, it is carbonated – or finished – then transferred to kegs. DeMattei divided the class into three groups of students to ensure they are able to compare samples of three different beers at the end. Students are able to taste the three recipes about two weeks after they make the batch.
The certificate in fermentation science also requires students to complete a 200-hour internship in a brewery or related business after they complete the 16-credit program. Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in number of breweries, and craft beer is a powerful economic driver in the state. DeMattei has a vision for his program beyond the bottle, however.
“What makes our program unique is our focus on the science of fermentation,” he said. “You think of beer first, but there are many other applications for this science including other beverage types and fermenting vegetables.”
CMU’s undergraduate certificate in fermentation science is the first program of its kind in Michigan and only the sixth program in the United States. The program will graduate the first cohort of students in 2016.