Raise a Glass in Class

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Pilot brewing equipment shows bacteriology students the science of fermentation.

Brewing consultant Joe Pulizzano (left) looks over the UW’s new pilot-scale brewing equipment with faculty associate Jon Roll. Though mostly used for instruction and research, the equipment also produced a batch of Bucky’s Inaugural Ale (below), a light, golden ale. Photos: Bryce Richter.

Brewing consultant Joe Pulizzano (left) looks over the UW’s new pilot-scale brewing equipment with faculty associate Jon Roll. Though mostly used for instruction and research, the equipment also produced a batch of Bucky’s Inaugural Ale (below), a light, golden ale. Photos: Bryce Richter.

The microbiology department’s latest gizmo is causing a ferment of interest. In fall, MillerCoors donated funds to purchase a set of pilot-scale brewing equipment so that UW students can learn to unlock the science that fills their favorite pint.

With a capacity to make about ten gallons of beer at a time, the pilot-scale brewing kit is hardly appropriate for industrial use. Rather, it would typically be used commercially to make samples and test recipes. But at the UW, says instructor Jon Roll, the kit won’t be used to research taste so much as process.

“Fermentation is important for many foods,” he says. “It’s relevant not only to beer, but to cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, soy sauce. There’s a lot of science that goes into it.”

MillerCoors gave the UW $100,000 to buy the gear, which may sound like a lot, but then brewing is an important part of Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry, to the tune of $7 billion a year.

Roll intends to use the equipment in a class he’s currently designing called Introduction to Zymology, and those students who believe it will involve more drinking than thinking ought to reconsider.

“It’s a 300-level course,” Roll says, noting its scientific emphasis. “Its prerequisites include intro to microbiology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry.”

Still, though he limited initial enrollment to microbiology majors, he reports, the class “filled instantly.”

Published in the Spring 2009 issue

Tags: Research, Science, Teaching and learning

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