Students at Florida International University now have the opportunity to learn the whole beer-making process in Dr. Barry Gump’s brewing science class.
“People think that we just sit here and drink all day long but it’s really about the science and the art of making the beer and enjoying it,” said graduate student Matthew Eeintraub, who has used what he’s learning in class to land a job brewing for the Miami Brewing Company in Homestead.
Students have to be 21 to take the class, and passion is required.
“We spend a lot of time reading books studying up on the subject,” said graduate student Mo Saade, who hopes to start up his own craft brewing company some day. “There’s a lot of science behind it, you can make beer, but if you want to take it to the next level, it takes a lot of studying.”
The craft brewing industry is growing in South Florida, and to tap into that market, students learn all phases of beer production: from grinding barley and malt, to cooking the mixture, to treating the water so its mineral content is just right, to selecting the type of hops to give the beer its flavor.
“We add hops straight to the fermenter, post-fermentation, so you get that big, big aroma,” said Saade, describing the batch of India Pale Ale he and Weintraub were cooking up during our visit to the beer lab.
There’s so much science involved, the class really is an application of what’s commonly called S.T.E.M. education (science, technology, engineering, and math). It’s uncommon to see a chemistry professor teaching in the hospitality school, but this might be the only brewing class in the nation.
“Beer is just applied chemistry,” Dr. Gump said.
The dean of FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Mike Hampton, said this class melds different disciplines and yields a product: students ready for the brewing industry.
“Brewing and wine making and spirits are all science, it comes from the research that they put together on all the elements of chemistry and biology so it’s an exciting proposition for students, it’s not just about the end product, it’s how we get to it,” Hampton said.
Students are tested on their knowledge of the process and on their ability to taste subtle differences in beer styles. They’re also judged on the quality of their final project, for which they have to brew their own creation.
“We’re really only taking one-ounce tastings and a lot of times we don’t even swallow it,” said Weintraub, and then added, “No, I’m serious!”
FIU has its own labels for its beer, but the University doesn’t sell it. FIU brew is only produced for special school events and educational purposes.