Lyon College in Batesville, Ark. is introducing a new course for students this Spring: beer fermentation. The class, a liberal arts hybrid laboratory offered to students 21 years and older, is taught by biology professor Dr. Alexander Beeser. He saw a need to offer more opportunities to inspire students to take science classes, beyond the credits needed for graduation.
"One of the things I was interested in doing was trying to increase STEM participation," Beeser said. "Finding things that students relate to [and] have alternate interests in is a really good way to get them engaged with the material."
The nature of the topic required serious consideration before Lyon College approved the venture, he said. Legality was a concern, but after research, an age restriction on the class, and the support of a sympathetic homebrewing provost, the course was approved for the Spring semester.
In the class, students will study and practice the steps of fermenting beverages, as well as learn the science and the history of brewing. The one caveat: due to safety concerns, students can’t drink in the lab. After class, however, students can enjoy their fermented creations.
"I’m just using fermentation as a way to give the students something they might already have an interest in," Beeser said. "Hopefully, they’ll leave with an appreciation that science isn’t something that is done by people in white lab coats away from everybody else. A lot of the things we do in our everyday life are based on the scientific principles."