Beer-making degrees on tap in Colorado

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- You can forget what your parents told you about drinking in college.

More higher-education institutions in Colorado are offering degrees in the science of brewing. The booming industry is promising a career path for those ready to study beer fermentation.

Students are busy turning that science into an art. Instead of starting out with the trial and error process of home brewing, it’s becoming easier to craft that perfect pint by learning from experts.

“This is a wild kind of biology,” said Samuel DeVries, a dean at Arapahoe Community College.

DeVries heads the area of health, mathematics and science at the college. He’s set to roll out a new fermentation science degree this fall.

A large part of the curriculum focuses on the study of yeast feeding on malt sugar that releases alcohol and carbon dioxide.

DeVries said his team quickly learned most any student who enjoys beer has an interest in the subject matter. Colorado consumers do as well -- evident in what is, no doubt, a profitable business.

“[The industry is] growing like yeast grows in a good malt,” DeVries said.

Denver-area brewers agree and say the support of local colleges is helping the industry grow even faster.

“You’re seeing more and more people who do have academic backgrounds,” said Darren Boyd, co-owner of Spangalang Brewery. “There’s no shortage of people who want to be in this industry.”

Boyd said the right person, with the right pitch, will attract the needed investors to start a brewery of their own.

DeVries said the science background puts students on that track, but the entire education is so much more than what’s learned in a textbook.

Immersive learning is a big part of the degree, requiring students to get out of the classroom and into breweries.

Registration for the new degree is open at ACC. Two years will top off with an associate degree in fermentation science.

After that, there’s an opportunity for students to pursue a related bachelor’s degree -- on tap at Metropolitan State University of Denver or Colorado State University.

ACC is just the latest school where students are able to get a formal education in fermentation.

That education also explores the fermentation of Kombucha, pickles and other products. Various colleges and universities in Colorado offer similar degrees.