Alltech, WKU establish operating brewery program

Alltech is partnering with Western Kentucky University to bring largest production-level brewing system to a university campus in U.S.

Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. is partnering with Western Kentucky University (WKU) to bring the largest production-level brewing system to a university campus in the U.S.

The fully operational brewery will help support new undergraduate and graduate certificates in brewing and distilling arts and sciences and is set to begin this summer.

The brewery consists of a brewhouse, fermenters and conditioning tanks capable of producing a wide variety of beers. It is located in WKU’s Center for Research & Development.

By providing equipment and renovating the space, it opens up not just production but the capability to train people for the growing brewing and craft brewing industry. A first-of-its-kind global survey released recently by Alltech demonstrated the growth of craft breweries, which now number more than 10,000 throughout the world, with more than 4,000 craft breweries in the U.S. alone.

Alltech’s diverse business, including animal health, crop sciences, algal technology and brewing and distilling, has a foundation in yeast and fermentation. The company’s staff includes 18 team members with master’s degrees in brewing and distilling, including experts such as Dr. Inge Russell, renowned researcher and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Institute of Brewing in Canada, and Graeme Stewart, considered the “godfather” of yeast in brewing.

“We’re investing in Western Kentucky University to establish this brewing and distilling program not only to train up the next generation of brewers for a growing craft beer industry but also to develop talent for our own business, which requires a fundamental understanding of yeast. There’s no better way to achieve that than a brewing and distilling education,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech.

This partnership will complement existing strengths among WKU faculty in areas such as food sciences, fermentation, history, marketing and entrepreneurship by providing specialized faculty expertise in brewing and distilling arts and sciences in tandem with innovative internship opportunities for WKU students.

The curriculum, approved April 22 by WKU’s Board of Regents, combines expertise from the Ogden College of Science & Engineering, the Potter College of Arts & Letters and the Gordon Ford College of Business.

“We’ve been teaching the history and science of brewing for almost 10 years at WKU,” said Dr. Andrew McMichael, assistant dean of Potter College. “However, as we look to expand our course offerings and develop undergraduate and graduate programs, this collaboration has the potential to put us in the forefront of academic programs in this field.”

Dr. Cathleen Webb, associate dean of Ogden College of Science & Engineering, said brewing and distilling are as much art as science.

“The program being proposed at WKU will combine science, arts, humanities and business, which will make this a destination degree for people around the country interested in multiple facets of the craft brewing and distilling industry,” she said. “We’re especially excited about the student laboratory and how our students will be able to combine academic research with real-world work experience in the brewery.”

The undergraduate certificate will complement existing majors with courses that encompass science, business and history, with a culminating internship. The graduate certificate program is focused more towards the working professional, with a flexible schedule of online and blended courses.

“Most successful craft brewers do not have a degree in fermentation sciences,” Webb said. “Brewing and distilling are best learned by doing, and that is why our focus is on an internship and practical work experience with industrial partners. Moreover, having the student lab attached to the brewery offers unique opportunities to take classes while watching a brewery operate.”

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