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.
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.