Fermentation Major Brewing in Loretto

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Something new is brewing at Saint Francis and it’s not a winter snowstorm. At least not yet.

The University has introduced a fermentation arts program this semester.

A joint venture between the School of Arts and Letters and the School of Science, the program’s curriculum includes the study of different fermented products such as beer, wine, sauerkraut and various cheeses.

Classes in the new curriculum began this semester.

The new major has two concentrations: fermentation culture and fermentation administration.

Fermentation culture deals with production. Fermentation administration explores the business side of the industry.

Students in both majors are encouraged to pursue a minor in business administration.

“Fermentation is the process of yeast involved in microbiological actions and breaking down components,” said Tim Whisler, Dean of the School of Arts and Letters. “The by-product is either alcohol or the salting of various foods.”

Brewing is a historical endeavor, as well as a creative one.

Franciscan Trappist monks have been brewing beer since 1838.

Beer produced by these monks is only released once a year (each December) and costs $85 for a six pack.

Years ago, each town had its own winery and brewery that was unique to that community.

As years passed, these breweries disappeared, and smaller companies consolidated into a few larger ones.

In recent year, smaller breweries are making a comeback nationally. Saint Francis wants to be a part of this trend.

“It’s a really unique industry,” said Whisler. “There’s science, humanities, analytical thinking and marketing involved. It’s truly inter-disciplinary.”

John Trimble, a professor of biology, will be teaching one of the introductory fermentation classes.

“(Students) do need to understand different forms of chemistry, sugars, amino acids and vitamins necessary to, basically, keep yeast and bacteria happy so they ferment,” said Trimble.

Aaron Kirsch is the first student majoring in the new program. He plans to graduate in December 2016 with a fermentation arts major, with a minor in business administration.

Kirsch is currently completing an internship with the Draai Laag Brewery. “Draai Laag” means “turncoat” in Dutch.

This brewery is more of a “laboratory” in the fermentation industry.

Draai Laag devotes 47 percent of their annual budget to research and development, compared to other breweries, which typically devote around 12 percent toward R and D.

Draai Laag was founded in 2009 and has remained focused on improvements in the fermentation process and providing high-quality beer.

The company’s first beer commercial was released in 2011.

Kirsch has developed many beer recipes of his own during his internship with the company. He said he has been given the freedom and opportunity to cultivate and “brew” ideas at Draai Laag.

“Brewing is where art and science really come together,” said Kirsch. “Instead of my canvass being an easel, my canvass is a glass and I get to use science to produce that art.”

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