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CSU Fermentation and Technology Senior, James MacDonald, posing with his 2 U.S. Beer Open Championship bronze medals.

When it first rolled out, CSU’s Fermentation Science and Technology program made headlines, as simply, “the degree in beer making.” Now entering its fourth year, it has established itself as a rigorous, science-based program with strong ties to the industry. This program is going places.

Before you give up that day job to become a full-time student, first do a little research. This academic program is not for the casual garage brewer. And it concentrates heavily on the academic part. Associate Director Jeffrey Callaway says the program is definitely not a “Have Fun, Drink Beer” degree. Four years of required course work focuses on chemistry, biology, and math as well as engineering and technology, essential elements for the fermentation industry.  Plus, all your general education requirements.

Now boasting approximately 150 students, the program constantly evolves to stay relevant. Curriculum is based on the needs of the workplace. For example, a new course being offered this Fall semester focuses on fermentation process design and technology. It emphasizes applied engineering and will familiarize students with the engineer-speak necessary for the business. This is another illustration of the program’s goals: to produce high caliber graduates who can maneuver successfully within the fermentation industry.

External partnerships are not only key but vital. Not only do companies donate funds, but equipment and materials. This delivers authentic lab experiences for students without the astronomical costs of acquiring necessary machinery. Plus, students are using the latest and greatest technology. Callaway explains that recently Atlas Copco from Denver supplied an air compressor. To the average Joe, this doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it’s the big daddy of all high-tech industry compressors, without the price tag attached. Other local firms like Malisko Engineering and Rockwell Automation have contributed both technology and know-how to the program.

In addition to providing technology and equipment, these partners invest their time. The Fermentation Science and Technology Advisory Board is a who’s who of industry stars. Brew masters, senior executives of major corporations, and leading scientists provide both leadership and direction for the program. They also volunteer to guest lecture, providing an awesome opportunity for students to interact one-on-one with them in the classroom. Students learn from the best.

All these industry connections present students additional career prospects. Nothing says “hire me” like a relevant degree AND experience. The program’s required internship provides hands-on work proficiency. Also, if students make a positive impression with the company, it could land them a future dream job after graduation. And CSU grads are doing just that. Program graduates can be found gainfully employed at Miller-Coors, New Belgium, 10 Barrel, Avery, Oskar Blues and Old Elk Distillery.

Callaway reports that the degree continues to generate a lot of interest, and new offerings are being developed. In 2017, non-credit courses for professional development will be offered both online and onsite, providing more education for folks already in the fermentation business.  Connecting the industry with academics is textbook land-grant mission of CSU.

Still interested in a fermentation career? Checkout CSU’s website for all the details at http://www.fshn.chhs.colostate.edu/students/undergraduate/fermentation-science/