Mount Pleasant CMU, which is about 150 miles northwest of Detroit, announced that it plans to launch a program in “fermentation science” in fall 2015. It stated that the undergraduate program will be the first in Michigan designed to specifically provide a “hands-on education focused on craft beer.”
According to Yahoo News, the university program is aimed at supporting and promoting the state’s fast-growing craft brewing industry, resulting in over $1 billion annually.
“As of 2013, Michigan ranked fifth in the nation in number of breweries, behind only California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington,” said Ian Davison, Dean of the College of Science and Technology at the Mount Pleasant campus.
The University of California, Oregon State and Central Washington University all operate similar programs. For 15 years, Michigan State University has operated its own artisan distilling program. Last year it started a beverage specialization program which includes beer and wine-making.
Yahoo News reported the Central Michigan program will include classroom and lab work in biochemistry, chemistry and microbiology, as well as a 200-hour internship in a “production-scale facility.”
Program Director Cordell DeMattei said the program “will fill a need in the state and across the region for students to learn the science and technology underlying brewing and provides the training needed by future leaders of the craft brewing industry.”
More than 400 acres of hops, beer’s key flavoring ingredient, are being cultivated in Michigan, according to Rob Sirrine of the Michigan State University Extension. Growers’ main market is small-sale in-state brewers, he said.
Behind the growing demand for high-end beer is a long-running attraction with the brewing process, one of the oldest forms of human food processing. Recent years have seen a burst of interest in small-scale, local, high-quality beer-making.
“There’s a lot of romantic attachment to beer,” said Scott Graham, Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild. The Lansing-based group represents the state’s 160-plus microbreweries and helped win passage this year of laws allowing them to expand.
In-state microbrewers currently have 5 percent of Michigan’s beer market, a share that could easily double or triple, Graham said.
The university is collaborating with the Mountain Town Brewing Co. and Hunter’s Ale House in developing the program.