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SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 15, 2017)USF Sarasota-Manatee’s beer science class is bubbling up to greater heights.

The three-year-old program, which highlights age-old brewing techniques and the chemistry of beer, recently added a 14-gallon fermenter to double the output of its instructional brewing system. The conical-shaped, stainless steel device was a gift from Sarasota-based Big Top Brewing Co. and master brewer Josh Wilson. The company has long partnered with USFSM’s beer-making program.

USFSM’s Science of Beer brewing system expands
Dr. Ken Caswell

Instructors Dr. Joe Askren and Dr. Ken Caswell use the home-style, micro-brewing system – itself, a private gift – to teach the Introduction to Beer Science and the Chemistry and Microbiology of Beer at USFSM’s Culinary Innovation Lab (CIL) in Lakewood Ranch.

Science is only part of the program as the class also delves into the process of making beer and features brewery tours and talks by master brewers. The students try their own hand at crafting beer, as well. But as Dr. Askren points out, beer-making isn’t all science and fun flavor experimentation.

“Ninety percent of brewing is cleaning, the sterilization that takes place before you brew anything,” he said, adding that cleanliness is important not only for the health of consumers but for the end product’s overall flavor.

The beer-science program has evolved much since its introduction in spring 2014. Along with the expanded brewing system, the program’s professional contacts have increased to include microbreweries in Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Recently, two local brewers – Wilson and Bob Haa of Bradenton-based Motorworks Brewing Co. – visited the CIL as Drs. Askren and Caswell inaugurated their beer-making system with a new ale. The batch should be ready in two weeks after fermenting.

The improved system isn’t the only change students will see this semester. They can also expect an invitation to see the creation of a special ale by Big Top Brewing. The local company has been selected to craft a beer to celebrate the World Rowing Championships, Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, and invited USFSM students to stop by to learn more about this unique ale.

Additionally, students will visit Florida Worldwide Citrus in Bradenton. The company’s fruit-based flavorings, oils and concentrates are used by the food and beverage industry nationally and internationally. Many brewers use such flavorings to impart citrus notes to seasonal beers and special batches.

“We will learn a lot about these natural flavoring components and see what goes into the process of making them,” Dr. Askren said. “It should be very interesting to the students.”

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