For pro beer makers, OSU is becoming Brew U

Bennett Hall / Corvallis Gazette-Times
Published Jun 25, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

CORVALLIS — With a clink of glass, a hiss of compressed air and a chunk of machinery, a line of beer bottles moved through the automated production line at Oregon State University’s small on-campus brewery. One by one, the bottles were filled with frothing amber liquid and then capped as a group of people in white lab coats and beer-spattered safety glasses looked on.

Welcome to OSU’s Brewing Analytics Series, a trio of short courses for working brewers and serious amateurs looking to break into the industry: Microbiology for the Brewer, Beer Analyses and Quality Assurance.

The first two combine online course materials with labwork, while the third involves a tour of university and commercial hop and barley breeding operations.

Some 18 students from around the United States and Canada converged on Corvallis last week for the culminating sessions of this session’s intensive classes. “These courses were designed with the professional brewer in mind,” said Tom Shellhammer, a professor in OSU’s fermentation science program and the lead instructor for the Brewing Analytics Series.

“It doesn’t really show you so much how to brew as how to do it right.”

And a growing number of professional beer makers are looking to OSU for expertise in the production process. The university’s fermentation science program has grown along with Oregon’s reputation as a leader in the craft brewing field, with more than 200 undergraduate students enrolled last term.

Mark Maher just opened Feckin Brewery in Oregon City with his father. “I’ve been home brewing for a couple of years — no formal training, just books and YouTube,” said Maher, whose family also owns Maher’s Irish Brew Pub in Lake Oswego.

Jesse Watterson, a three-year veteran of Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine, said he was looking for a mid-career refresher course.

“I know a lot about the process, but it’s good to reinforce my knowledge with science,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot in my week here.”

Melinda Reis works on the manufacturing side of the beer biz at Marks Design & Metalworks, a Vancouver, Wash., outfit that builds production-scale tanks for microbreweries. She came looking for ways to improve the company’s product line and ended up learning from her fellow students as well as the course instructors.

“It was good to step into our customers’ shoes for a week,” Reis said. “It’s been extremely valuable.”

On the Web

For more on the courses, visit Oregon State University’s webpage at bit.ly/19xmufJ