There’s chemistry brewing in Richmond
Ashley Hyshka, Community Reporter
Being enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Brewing and Brewery Operations program consists of more than just drinking and learning about beer. Sometimes you’ve got to put down the stein and put on a lab coat.
On Aug. 2, KPU introduced a new not-for-credit class called “Brewing Chemistry Prep”, a review course designed for brewing students who are about to enter their first year. The class is meant to refresh students’ minds from high school chemistry, and to prepare them for the lab work necessary to complete the two-year brewing diploma program.
According to DeAnn Bremner, the communications coordinator for KPU’s Faculty of Science and Horticulture, the course will “give students more confidence, prepare them, [and] help them be more successful in that first semester and first year.”
KPU’s brewing program is notable for being chemistry and microbiology intensive, which Bremner says sets it apart from other university brewing programs. In addition, students learn about business and receive hands-on experience in the on-site brewery.
“Every year, when we’re finished a semester or the year of the brewing diploma program, we always go to our grads or our students and say, ‘If you were going to give a tip to a first-year student, what would you say? What would be a suggestion?’” says Bremner. “Always, one of the most common things that comes back is that they wished they had studied more chemistry before they started their first semester.”
The brewing program was established at KPU in 2014 as a result of the booming beer industry. Newly-constructed breweries needed talented and skilled workers who could develop recipes, do sensory analyses, and understand the complex science behind brewing.
“If [KPU Brewing students] want to work, they have a job in the industry because [the beer industry] can’t keep up with the growth. It’s been referred to as a modern-day gold rush,” says Bremner.
Even first-year brewing students who work part-time in local breweries have been called on by management because they know that the students are educated enough to determine PH balance, alcohol content, and any errors in a batch.
“If they don’t understand the science behind it, then things can go wrong, or they may never be able to reproduce that recipe consistently again,” says Bremner. “Even when we’re at different events, like networking events or beer festivals, as soon as people hear that some of these students are in a … dedicated brewing program, they get a lot of respect.”
KPU’s brewing program is the first in Canada to receive recognition by the Master Brewers Association, which puts them on par with the larger and older breweries at American universities. In addition, several KPU students won gold and silver at the U.S. Open College Beer Championship this past May.
Bremner believes that KPU’s brewing program will only continue to improve Vancouver’s growing and diverse beer industry. She calls the university “a place for people to want to come to get their education in brewing.”
“The craft beer culture is very creative, collaborative—it’s definitely exploding, not just in Vancouver, but around the world,” she says.