Virginia Tech hops into the farm-to-glass craft beer movement with new brewhouse
By Amy Loeffler
The college has long been a steward of the commonwealth’s wine industry through enology and viticulture research and outreach efforts.
Now, the advent of a state-of-the-art, shiny new brewhouse and malting system in Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 will allow the college to shepherd along beer research as well.
The recently installed system allows students to learn the latest in malting, brewing, and fermenting techniques, while faculty members further the university’s land-grant mission by supporting industry research in fermentation and brewing.
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.
“We’ve got all the pieces of the brewing puzzle here and ready to go,” 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 help make the brewing industry more environmentally friendly by developing methods to turn spent barley into plastic and fuel — which is what university researchers are doing in the lab across from the brewhouse. The brewhouse 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.
Now, who wants a Land-Grant Lager?