New TEES short course offers hands-on training for craft brewers
Today is a great time to be a beer lover. As a nation, the United States now has more beer styles (over 150) and brands (over 20,000) to choose from than any other market in the world, and a large portion of them are produced in craft breweries.
A craft brewery, or microbrewery, is a brewery that produces small amounts of beer, typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned. Such breweries are generally characterized by their emphasis on quality, flavor and brewing technique.
More than 5,000 craft breweries are responsible for the beer brands available in the U.S., with more than 200 in Texas, and the Brewers Association estimates over 2,000 craft breweries are in the planning stages. A new course being offered by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Global Petroleum Research Institute (GPRI) can help breweries that are new to the craft get started or provide tips to improve their product.
The two-day course, “Brewery Operations: Equipment, Ingredients and Processing,” will be held in Austin on Sept. 17-19, and hands-on training on brewery equipment operation and maintenance will be offered. A partial list of topics includes sanitation/CIP, water quality, boiler/chillers, milling equipment, pumps/piping/tanks and new technologies. Attendees will receive fundamental training on how to better manage equipment, infrastructure and run their operation more efficiently, reliably and safely, all with a better understanding of how to support production of a specified beer of accurate style and quality. There will also be presentations on best practices by industry experts, equipment will be opened and displayed in demonstrations, and there will be tours offered by local breweries.
Carl Vavra, assistant research scientist with GPRI, will teach the course, along with Dr. Richard Clough, head of the Process Engineering Research and Development Center’s Extraction and Protein Technologies Program. Vavra said they’re offering the course because there is so much to learn about the craft brewing process.
“The main reason for starting the course was because craft brewing is so popular and all the inquiries we received,” he said. “It’s a growing industry and it opened our eyes how many people who are interested in craft brewing.”
Vavra said they will give lectures in the morning and in the afternoon they will visit two Austin craft breweries where they will learn about the equipment in the actual environment.
“We will go to the breweries and show them what they’re doing and have a pump display with analytical things going on that we can show people how to use. And maybe they can see some new technologies that they don’t know about currently,” he said. “That gives us an edge and people are hungry for that. It’s more of a hands-on learning environment that we bring to the table.”
Vavra said there are other craft brewing courses offered, but their course is unique because of the hands-on aspect and the networking contacts they will get from the course to use at any time. Course attendees can learn a lot about craft brewing, whether they’re just starting out or are currently working in a brewery, but don’t know a lot about the process.
“The main audience is existing companies, but there are some that are just beginning and other companies like Karbach (Brewing) in Houston where they want some more advanced training like this,” Vavra said. “They have people in their plant who push a button to do whatever they’re doing, and they want them to go to a class or course to really understand what’s happening with the yeast or hops or grain, or why does this pump go with this flow rate and all that. It’s a mix of people.”
Vavra said because there are so many people who can learn from the course, their goal is host two craft brewery courses a year, one in Texas and one outside of Texas.
“Craft brewing is exploding. There are over 400 breweries in Colorado for example, 200-250 in Texas and that number is growing rapidly. In Oregon they’re all over the place and they have a national conference each year where they had over 13,000 attendees,” Vavra said. “We’re excited about it, and it seems like a good fit for what we can do.”