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May 4, 2015

CSU's science of brewing course on tap for fall 2015

By Melanie Morris

The thought of combining college classes with beer might seem absurd, but a new course at Cleveland State University does just that.

Last year, Cleveland State awarded Sam McNulty, owner and operator of Bier Markt and Market Garden Brewery, a Distinguished Alumnus Award for his achievements. The growing microbrewery industry McNulty pursued sparked the interest of the Dean of the College of Sciences and Health Professions Meredith Bond.

Bond and the staff were interested in how Cleveland State could interact with the industry and incorporate the concept into the school community. The idea of internships arose, but with hesitation.

“We realized that in order to have well-informed interns to provide the local industry, we needed at least one course in the science of brewing,” David Ball, chemistry department chair, said.

The class, section 51 of CHM 497 Topics in Chemistry, was designed to provide students with a chemical background in home brewing. Aaron Morford, a home brewer and Cleveland State alumnus, taught the course during the spring.

The course will be offered again in the fall and then faculty will decide if the course will be taught regularly.
Morford has a bachelor’s degree in Plant and Environmental Biology from Ohio University and a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Cleveland State, and has taught a few home-brewing courses at Cuyahoga Community College.

He said the class combines many subjects in science, including engineering and biochemistry, to learn exactly how brewing works, but also incorporates other subjects like psychology and sociology when they start talking about drinking the beer.

“It’s a great way to learn about Cleveland’s beer culture but still have a solid educational component,” Morford said.

You don’t need to be 21 to take the popular two-credit course. The spring class closed in less than 40 hours as the 20-student limit was reached. Eighteen students remained on a wait list.

Since the class is technically a topic in chemistry, there are no formal prerequisites. However, permission of an instructor is required as a way to filter in students who have taken a freshman chemistry or biology course.

This doesn’t mean that other students aren’t welcome, though, as Morford said one student in the spring course is a psychology major.

The class is strictly lecture at the moment with many demonstrations, but Ball hopes to expand these boundaries.

“Students are not brewing beer themselves in this course,” he said. “We need to look into the legality and liability issues first, but that’s on our list of things to do,” he said.

Morford said he also hopes that a hands-on lab component will be added to the course. He said just like cooking, it’s best to taste the process.

“Drinking and sharing the final product is what it’s all about,” Morford said.