Lyon becomes first private college in state to offer fermentation science

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A new course is brewing at Lyon College.

Lyon will be the first private college in Arkansas to offer its students 21 years and older the opportunity to learn how to brew in a new fermentation science course starting in the spring semester.

“I hope students will leave with a better appreciation of fermentation,” said Dr. Alexander Beeser, assistant professor of biology. “Evidence suggests that students who view utility in their classes are more engaged and retain more material.”

Students will learn the science behind brewing beer, but Beeser also plans to teach the processes behind other products such as kombucha, a type of fermented tea, in courses moving forward.

Provost Dr. Melissa Taverner said the college checked with its legal counsel before adding the course.

“We’re not going to have products for sale,” she said.

Students will sign a waiver that anything they make in the lab is for personal consumption. The college is developing additional protocols for the course.

“Basic lab safety is foundational to what we are trying to accomplish, so understanding how to manipulate these systems safely and predictably is one of our key goals,” Taverner added.

Beeser already has the fermentation equipment set up in a lab.

“We will mostly be using stainless steel fermentors, which makes sanitation a lot easier,” he said. “We have pumps to move liquid from one vessel to another, so there will be no heavy lifting. The heating source is 100 percent electric, so there will be no propane burners or exhaust.”

The college also recently added the student club, Bagpipe Brewery, and Beeser will serve as the faculty advisor. Student president of the club, Zachary Ward, a junior computer science major, plans to take the fermentation course next spring.

Ward, of Russellville, said the club is a way to “share this passion with other students on campus in a responsible way.”

“Making homemade beer has been something my family has done a bit before, so it was not a huge leap to want to get involved with it at school,” he said.

Beeser is encouraging students from all majors to participate and said he also hopes the course will develop students’ appreciation of fermentation.

“No matter how different beers are, fermentation is at the core of every one,” he said. “If I can get students to consider quality over quantity that wouldn’t make me upset in the least.”

The course also holds true to the college’s mission.

“It’s applied liberal arts,” Taverner added. “Even if we’re not going to train people to open a microbrewery, we are going to help people to understand the ancient science that governs how these products are made.”

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