Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. is partnering with Western Kentucky University to bring the largest production-level brewing system to a university campus in the United States.
The fully operational brewery will help support new undergraduate and graduate certificates in Brewing and Distilling Arts and Sciences, set to begin this summer.
The fully-operational brewery consists of a brewhouse, fermenters and conditioning tanks capable of producing a wide variety of beers. It is located in WKU’s Center for Research and Development on Nashville Road and is Alltech’s first investment into Bowling Green.
By providing equipment and renovating the space, it opens up not just production, but the capability of training people for the growing brewing and craft brewing industry. A first-of-its-kind global survey released recently by Alltech demonstrated the growth of craft breweries, now more than 10,000-strong throughout the world, with more than 4,000 craft breweries in the U.S. alone.
Alltech’s founder and president, Dr. Pearse Lyons, is himself a brewer and distiller, and was the first Irishman to receive a master’s degree and Ph.D. in this area.
Alltech’s diverse business, including animal health, crop sciences, algal technology and brewing and distilling, has a foundation in yeast and fermentation. Their staff includes 18 team members with master’s degrees in brewing and distilling, including experts such as Dr. Inge Russell, renowned researcher and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Institute of Brewing in Canada, and Graeme Stewart, considered the “Godfather” of yeast in brewing.
“We’re investing in Western Kentucky University to establish this brewing and distilling program not only to train up the next generation of brewers for a growing craft beer industry, but also to develop talent for our own business, which requires a fundamental understanding of yeast. There’s no better way to achieve that than a brewing and distilling education,” said Lyons.
This partnership will complement existing strengths among WKU faculty in areas such as food sciences, fermentation, history, marketing and entrepreneurship by providing specialized faculty expertise in brewing and distilling arts and sciences in tandem with innovative internship opportunities for WKU students.
“This is another example of how WKU is engaging in a private-public partnership to help a growing industry meet their workforce needs. WKU will continue to offer innovative brewing and distilling courses while moving to develop graduate and undergraduate degree programs,” said WKU President Gary Ransdell. “As the craft brewing industry expands in Kentucky and throughout the world, we believe there is a significant need for academic credentials for the professional in this field. We value Alltech’s important collaboration in helping to establish what we consider an important new scholarly initiative in Kentucky.”
Alltech has committed to supporting and growing their initial investment to develop and administer an innovative, cross-disciplinary program in the craft brewing and bourbon industry over the next five years, in addition to building a student laboratory adjacent to the operating brewery.
This initiative runs parallel with Alltech’s recruitment of WKU students, particularly from its Chinese Flagship Program. Alltech currently has two graduates of this program working within the company alongside Dr. Mark Lyons, global vice president and head of Greater China for Alltech.
The curriculum, approved April 22 by WKU’s Board of Regents, combines expertise from the Ogden College of Science and Engineering, the Potter College of Arts & Letters and the Gordon Ford College of Business.
“We’ve been teaching the history and science of brewing for almost 10 years at WKU,” said Dr. Andrew McMichael, assistant dean of Potter College. “However, as we look to expand our course offerings and develop undergraduate and graduate programs, this collaboration has the potential to put us in the forefront of academic programs in this field.”
Dr. Cathleen Webb, associate dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering, said brewing and distilling are as much art as science.
“The program being proposed at WKU will combine science, arts, humanities and business, which will make this a destination degree for people around the country interested in multiple facets of the craft brewing and distilling industry,” she said. “We’re especially excited about the student laboratory and how our students will be able to combine academic research with real world work experience in the brewery.”
The undergraduate certificate will complement existing majors with courses that encompass science, business and history with a culminating internship. The graduate certificate program is focused more towards the working professional with a flexible schedule of online and blended courses.
“Most successful craft brewers do not have a degree in fermentation sciences,” Dr. Webb said. “Brewing and distilling are best learned by doing and that is why our focus is on an internship and practical work experience with industrial partners. Moreover, having the student lab attached to the brewery offers unique opportunities to take classes while watching a brewery operate.”