OSU brews up new online, on-site classes for beer makers

March 1, 2013
Tom Shellhammer. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)
Tom Shellhammer, a fermentation scientist at Oregon State University, is pictured. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – To fill a knowledge gap among both professional and hobbyist beer-makers, Oregon State University has created several online and on-site short courses for brewers who want to refine their technical skills.

On-site offerings will take place this summer in the brewing hotspots of Portland, Bend and Corvallis, allowing students to network with some of the state's leading brewmasters. OSU professor and fermentation scientist Tom Shellhammer, who designed the curricula after consulting with industry leaders, will be the lead instructor for the classes. 

"There are plenty of introductory-level brewing related courses and programs for beginners or home brewers to get into the field, but not many options for advanced classes for professional development," said Marian Ladenburg of OSU's Professional and Noncredit Education unit, which developed the courses. “There's a need for them in the industry.”

Registration information is at this website. The registration deadline is April 1.

The first course will begin May 15 with two days of online instruction on microbiology to be completed by June 10. It will be followed by in-class lessons at OSU's brewery June 17-18 in Corvallis. Students will learn how to properly handle yeast and identify and assess organisms that can spoil wort and beer.

The second class, which will focus on beer analysis, also begins May 15. Students must complete online lessons by June 10. Then they can take on-campus instruction at OSU's brewery June 19-20. Participants will learn to calculate and measure different characteristics of beer, including wort gravity, carbohydrates, calories, dissolved oxygen, clarity and color. 

In both courses, class size is limited to 24 students and admission determined by experience level.

Students in either of these classes are eligible to enroll in a one-day tour of Willamette Valley farms that produce ingredients for beer, as well as OSU's hops and barley breeding facilities on June 21. The goal of the tour is to help participants develop a quality assurance program for their breweries.

From June 12-14, OSU will offer a sensory testing course at its Food Innovation Center in Portland. Students will learn to collect and analyze brewing data and develop their skills in evaluating beer flavor, clarity, color and foam. Students will also tour the brewery of Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland.

The sensory testing course will be repeated in Bend from July 31-Aug. 2 at Deschutes Brewery. Class size is limited to 40 students in each location. Registration is open to brewers of any experience level. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

For those who want to pursue brewing beyond this summer's short courses, OSU offers a bachelor's degree in food science and technology with an option in fermentation science. You can view a video about it. 

"The food science program historically has had 40 to 50 people in it, but since 2001, that's been on a steady climb," said Shellhammer, who holds the Nor'Wester Professorship in Fermentation Science. "We have more than 200 students in the program now. Of those, 60 percent are students interested in becoming brewers or with a strong interest in the brewery science program. People want to start breweries and there's a lot of people interested in working in breweries."

About 2,000 craft breweries operate in the United States, according to the Brewers Association. Oregon is home to 134 brewing companies, according to the Oregon Brewer's Guild.

Author: Denise Ruttan
Source: Tom Shellhammer