UW students compete in beer brewing

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MADISON, Wis,--- A group of students at U-W Madison proved that college students can do a lot more than drink beer, they're pretty good at brewing it, too! 18 students in the food science program faced off today at U-W's Babcock Hall as part of their fermentation studies class.

Only one of the six student-crafted American wheat ale entries will hit taps statewide later this spring.

"The panel felt today that all of the beers were absolutely incredible," said Dr. David Ryder, Technical Advisor to MillerCoors and former MillerCoors Chief Brewmaster. "And I say that sincerely, because it's difficult to brew beer on a small scale."

But only one beer was chosen for commercial production by Wisconsin Brewing Company, and the students who brewed this year's winning "S'wheat Caroline" are pretty thrilled.

"That will be really exciting come May. Being able to drink our beer with my friends at the Union and buy it around Wisconsin." said Jenna Fantle, UW Senior and member of team that created the winning brew.

The students learned the complexities of brewing by trial and error.

"In our original brew, the hops that we used were not practical for scaling up, so Wisconsin Brewing wouldn't have access to them in the volume that we need." Fantle explained.

So they adjusted their formula, and it paid off.

"They did a very good job of making a beer that had this noticeable hoppiness, and yet it didn't get in the way of the drinkability of the beer. The hops are up front, in the aroma and flavor, but the beer still drank and finished very clean and easy and said hmm, i'd like to have another swallow." said Kirby Nelson, brewmaster of Wisconsin Brewing Co.

With the beer industry expanding from 61 breweries in the early 1980s to more than 4,300 around the US today, brewmasters say it's important to educate young people with a solid understanding of beermaking, and to foster young talent who can do a lot more with beer than just drink it.

"It's in our best interest to try to point educational systems into a little bit of beer knowledge," said Nelson. "So people understand the process of this. So if they decide to do brewing as a career, they have a bit of a head start."

And the future brewmasters have an impressive addition to their resumes.

"You really get an idea of the full food industry from recipe development, to marketing, to making a drinkable product for everyone that's able to be scaled up and sold around Wisconsin." said Fantle.

Wisconsin Brewing Company will now take the winning formula and size it up from a 30 liter recipe to 10 thousand liters. The release date for the winning S'wheat Caroline beer is set for Friday, April 29th. It will be on tap at the Union Terrace and distributed across Wisconsin.