No small beer: N.C. State Brewery teaches the process and the science of beer making
A small brewery in the basement of Schaub Hall at N.C. State University is making a big name for itself on campus.
Dr. John Sheppard, professor in the Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences Department, has been brewing beer since he came to the university seven years ago, and now the N.C. State Brewery provides various microbrews for events on campus through University Dining.
Students are also involved in the brewing, although Sheppard says most aren’t seeking a career in the brewing industry. But some student brewers have expressed interest in opening their own brewery one day.
Enthusiasm on campus for the beer has grown, just as the number of craft breweries in North Carolina has ballooned in recent years. The N.C. State Brewery provides beer for about 25 campus events per year, and in November alone, it provided beer for five events.
“We make the beer in small quantities, not high-volume production,” Sheppard said. “With proper time, ingredients and sanitary conditions, we make sure our beer is of the highest possible quality.”
Sheppard teaches biopharmaceutical production at N.C. State’s Biomanufacturing Training and Education program. In the FBNS Department, his research area is brewing, studying the yeast used in beer fermentation.
When Sheppard left McGill University in Montreal seven years ago, he was able to bring the brewing equipment with him to N.C. State. Schaub Hall features a variety of food processing equipment, including a commercial creamery where Howling Cow ice cream is made.
Sheppard would like to see the brewery in a room of its own, but for now, it shares space with other processing equipment. Beer kegs are stored in nearby refrigeration.
The list of N.C. State Brewery beers reads like a list from any good, local craft brewery.
The year-round brews include:
- Pack Pilsner – A pale yellow/golden lager.
- Chancellor’s Choice IPA (India Pale Ale) – Award-winning English IPA, a medium-bodied orange-colored ale.
- Brickyard Red – Light amber (ale) accentuated with dark hues of red.
- Ma Blonde Do’r (Golden Blonde) – A clean, medium-bodied beer.
- Schaub Schwarzbier – Deep brown/black with ruby highlights.
Last fall the Chancellor’s Choice IPA earned a blue ribbon in the N.C. Brewers Guild competition.
In addition, there are four seasonal beers: Wolf-toberfest (fall), Pullen Porter (winter), Graduator Maibock (spring) and Wolfpack Wheat (summer).
The crowd favorite among the beers has been Brickyard Red Ale, Sheppard said. At events, the beer is served by University Dining bartenders and comes in its own refrigerated kegerator with tap and carbon dioxide.
One day, the beer may be served on campus, perhaps at a taproom in the planned clubhouse for the Poole Golf Course on Centennial Campus.
Sheppard said his research into beer making focuses on yeast management to improve quality control in brewing. He and graduate students have presented papers on the topic at brewing conferences, most recently at the 2013 European Brewing Congress in Luxembourg.
The students who have worked in brewing with FBNS don’t see many career opportunities in the beer industry. “The difference is huge between commercial breweries and craft breweries,” Sheppard said.
Large breweries like to hire brew masters with advanced degrees and a lot of experience. But today’s modern breweries are very automated, meaning that brewers are pretty far removed from the traditional brewing process, Sheppard said.
Craft breweries are much more traditional; brew masters have to do everything in the brewing process and jobs are not as lucrative, he said.
“Students are more likely to end up in a related field where they can use their fermentation expertise. In most cases, they are overqualified for craft breweries,” he said.
Still the experience in brewing will help graduate students in other careers. “In brewing, they learn a lot about a variety of scientific disciplines so the experience is useful no matter what they end up doing.”
— Natalie Hampton
From Issue: Summer 2013 Category: Noteworthy News, Perspectives