College is full of beer, but it's usually not in the classroom. This fall at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, non-science majors will be able to take a course on how to brew beer. Chemistry and biology PhD student Joe Meisel will be teaching undergraduates the science behind St. Louis' favorite beverage.
"We do research on the forefront of biology and chemistry, right where chemistry and biology meet. That's quite a bit what beer brewing is like," Meisel tells Gut Check. "One thing I've always been interested in is teaching science to people who normally shy away from it or have had a bad experience. I like to find those people and show them that science really isn't all that bad."
A friend of Meisel's taught him how to home brew a while back, and he's been doing it for about four years now. He came up with the idea for an applied science course one day while testing different measurements in his own brews.
He brought the idea to department chair Dr. Christopher Spilling, who mentioned that the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ron Yasbin, had actually been looking for a course like this.
"We decided there has to be a lab portion and a lecture portion. I'll be teaching them all sorts of different measurements you can do, and the scientific method in general, because that's really the true focus of the course," Meisel says. "But everything will be related to the beer. Towards the end of the semester, they'll be able to brew their own beer."
Meisel has already spoken to the director of Anheuser-Busch's technical center, so he'll be able to take his students to the brewery and have them learn how such a large operation keeps its beer consistent. He has also been in touch with Alpha Brewing, whose head brewmaster is actually an UMSL alum.
There are already 9 students registered for the course; Meisel says he'll probably take 24 total for this first semester. If there's enough interest, UMSL may open it up to more students.
"There's science behind all sorts of different things we do -- cooking, brewing beer. A lot of people, they don't quite appreciate how much goes into something," Meisel says. "I think it's great to be able to get that info out to them. It's not like we have the anticipation that they're going to become scientists, but it's important to have people who are aware of the science behind thing."
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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