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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.

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Taking the bite out of bedbugs

Virginia Tech: Bed bugs from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.


While bedbugs have largely been the bane of landlords and hoteliers, researchers from Virginia Cooperative Extension have discovered that bedbugs are increasingly popping up in spaces such as health care facilities — and that has a lot of people scratching their heads about how to contain the annoying bugs.

Dini Miller, professor of entomology and Extension entomologist, trains health care and social workers on how to get rid of bedbugs and prevent future infestations.

Dini Miller, professor of entomology and Extension entomologist, trains health care and social workers on how to get rid of bedbugs and prevent future infestations.

This latest development means the training and research that Dini Miller, professor of entomology and Extension entomologist, conducts at the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory is more necessary than ever for those looking to contain the urban pest problem.

According to Miller, bedbugs have increasingly spread from individual homes to places where people gather to use social services, such as women’s shelters; medical care facilities, like dialysis centers; and lower-income, elder care facilities. Elderly populations are at high risk for bedbugs because their bodies might not react to the bites with the usual red welts, and poorer eyesight means they don’t see the bugs well enough to report them.

Miller is training health care and social workers — who often encounter infestations in spaces such as these — on how to get rid of the bugs and address the tangential factors of dealing with the pests, such as difficulty in moving personal belongings in a population with limited mobility.

In 2015 the Dodson Center delivered 63 training presentations at 50 different venues, resulting in 6,945 face-to-face interactions.

Much of what Miller combats during trainings is ignorance.

“We have to address the ‘freak out’ factor,” said Miller. “People who cannot live without assistance are now being even more isolated and deprived of care because health care workers are reticent to enter spaces where there are infestations.”

When Miller started the center, she was worried about how to advertise the center’s services, but no longer.

“The bedbugs just kept spreading,” she said.

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