Oregon is known for brewing beer. After all, Portland reportedly is the microbrew capital of the world. Now Oregon State University students in the Food and Fermentation Science Club are learning what it takes to brew one of the world’s oldest beverages for public consumption.
Nick Arzner, the owner of Block 15 Brewing Co. at 300 S.W. Jefferson Ave., is in the third month of a partnership with the fermentation science club members that allows the students to design and brew a beer from start to finish.
Students work in pairs to create two recipes of their own. Arzner selects one of the recipes for sale, based on the season and the current lineup on tap. Then, under the watchful eye of Block 15 brewmasters and staffers, the students combine the ingredients and learn how to ferment them into a microbrew variety that is then sold at the downtown Corvallis brew pub and eatery.
The “Brewed by Beavers” blend is on tap for one month before it’s replaced by the next student-
The hitch? Working in pairs to design and ultimately name a recipe can be a tricky, but it’s an important part of not just making beer but selling beer, Arzner said.
Although the students don’t receive academic credit for the brew project because it’s not an actual internship, Arzner said they gain valuable knowledge.
“We’re giving them total control, from conception,” he said.
Callan Voccaro, a senior in the fermentation science program whose team’s beer — a milk stout named Udder Delight — appeared on tap in mid-January, has interned at several breweries. He said being part of the brewing process from start to finish is liberating.
“You’re allowed to have some free rein,” he said. “It’s a great way to try something out and be creative.”
Chris Wright, a post-baccalaureate in fermentation science, had a major role in creating a brown ale with maple syrup that was dubbed “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” It went on tap earlier this week.
Arzner recently added four more tap lines. Customers now can choose from up to 18 beers on tap, including the Brewed by Beavers variety that joined a lineup of seasonal varieties and six standard Block 15 beers.
The student pairs who have signed up for a month-long stint as apprentice brewers fills a waiting list that stretches into June — evidence of the Brewed by Beavers program’s popularity.
“You guys brought the whole class in on the launch,” a grinning Arzner said to Voccaro and Wright when the three recently gathered at Block 15. Other members of the brew club get to sample the Beaver brew because Arzner donates a keg of the students’ beer to the club each month.
The next pair of students on tap to work with Block 15 are Jean-Luke Alexander and Matt Jidas, both seniors in the fermentation science program. Their German smoked lager — a darker beer with a light flavor — has yet to be named. It is scheduled to be on tap mid-March.
OSU’s Food Science and Technology department has 45 students studying beer brewing. The department is one of two national programs (the University of California at Davis is the other) that offer a beer brewing option as part of its fermentation science program. Overall, OSU’s fermentation science program has grown from 40 students in 2003 to 177 today.
Recently, the program received national attention when professors from the department were featured in a Discovery Channel documentary titled “How Beer Changed the World.” They addressed beer’s origins in the Middle East, dating back to 6,000 B.C., and how it influenced development of significant historic milestones ranging from agriculture to medicine.
With more than 8,000 years of history, is beermaking now approaching the limits of creative possibility? No way, said Arzner. With more than 200 styles of beer and an infinite number of variations in each style, the potential for creating something new, delicious and frothy has barely been tapped.
Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or email@example.com.