Category Archives: Agriculture

Virginia Tech hops into the farm-to-glass craft beer movement

The Science of Brewing – Virginia Tech from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.


While the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has long been a steward of viniculture in the commonwealth, the advent of a state-of-the-art brewhouse and malting system at Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 now allows the college to shepherd fermentation research for another lucrative market — craft beer.

The recently installed system lets students learn the latest in malting, brewing, and fermenting techniques and simultaneously fosters the university’s land-grant mission by supporting industry research in fermentation and brewing among faculty members. The announcement by Deschutes Brewery that it will anchor its East Coast location in Roanoke means the facility at Virginia Tech will also likely be integral to building industry partnerships between the university and commercial brewers.

A student spoons spent grain from the brewhouse container into a trash can while classmates look on. The professional-grade brewhouse is similar to what most craft-beer-making facilities use, but it is optimized for teaching.

A student spoons spent grain from the brewhouse container into a trash can while classmates look on. The professional-grade brewhouse is similar to what most craft-beer-making facilities use, but it is optimized for teaching.

The 250-liter, professional-grade, German-made Esau & Hueber brewhouse was designed so breweries can develop new varieties of ales and lagers while researching experimental, locally sourced ingredients without having to take their own facilities offline. The system, which can produce 66 gallons of beer in one brewing cycle, is very similar to the ones used in commercial craft brewing operations around the U.S.

The facility is also making it possible for the university to pursue global education opportunities with the Technical University of Munich, where students could put their classroom experience to use in the heart of Bavaria — a mecca for beer production.

“Our department is big on hands-on learning,” said Brian Wiersema, who oversees the brewhouse for the Department of Food Science and Technology.

The brewhouse is just one way that Virginia Tech is helping the commonwealth’s beer industry, which has an annual economic impact of more than $8 billion and contributes $2.9 billion in total annual tax receipts, according to the Beer Institute.

The brewhouse will also help make the brewing industry more environmentally friendly by developing methods to turn spent barley into plastic and fuel — which is what researchers are doing in the lab just across from the brewhouse.

Posted in Agriculture, Research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Freshwater shrimp become a big deal

Dan Kauffman (left) is helping shrimp producers expand their markets through shrimp boils.

Dan Kauffman (left) is helping shrimp producers expand their markets through shrimp boils.

As the freshwater shrimp in his ponds continued to grow and multiply, Charles Carter knew he had a good product to sell.

In his second year of production, Carter wanted to create product buzz in order to sell a portion of his production to local consumers. Carter was already selling his product wholesale as a member of the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network Cooperative, but he also wanted to market retail.

And he knew just where to look for assistance — Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Enter Dan Kauffman, Extension seafood marketing specialist at the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hampton.

Kauffman had been helping freshwater shrimp producers get their products to market, which also involved another part of his résumé — his fondness for shrimp boils.

“There is already a robust marine shrimp market, but people don’t often know about freshwater prawns,” said Kauffman, whose home department in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Working with the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network, he has paired shrimp producers with gourmet supermarkets, restaurants, and local seafood producers. Kauffman finds that one of the best ways to connect to customers is to get them to the farm where shrimp are being raised and have an old-fashioned shrimp boil. Kauffman, along with Extension community viability specialist Martha Walker, helped Carter put on a shrimp boil, which was instrumental in helping him market his product and introduce him to new clients.

Carter’s shrimp boil was a huge success. Two sittings of more than 250 people gobbled up the delicious shrimp that were grown only a few yards away.

Carter said he owes part of his success to Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“They were really a great partner in this entire process,” he said.

Posted in Agriculture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment