Augie takes a “hop” with beer minor program

It is one of the few programs of its kind at liberal arts colleges in the nation
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 10:16 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - How bright-eyed and bushy-tailed were you for 8:30 a.m. classes in college? Most would say, ‘not so much,’ but for some reason, there was a buzz in the air at Augustana University’s Wagoner Hall on a recent Tuesday at that time.

It was a buzz the students were creating themselves.

On this day, it was a batch of light pilsner beer in Dr. Stephanie Bruggeman’s microbiology class.

”I really just thought it was a great way that I could connect everything that I learned in the classroom with real world examples,” said Syndney Bernhard, a biology major and student in the course, “and I thought ‘what better class would be then to learn how to brew some beer?’”

Classmate Pramit Patel calls the class “really fun. I think it’s probably one of the best science classes I’ve taken here at Augie.”

Perhaps you’ve noticed the boom in the craft beer business over the last decade, both worldwide and in Sioux Falls.

The wave has made its way to college campuses in South Dakota — both at South Dakota State and Augustana. While there are classes and even majors in brewing all over the nation at public institutions like SDSU, Bruggeman said she leading one of the nation’s only “brewing and fermentation” minor programs at a school like Augie.

“There are very, very, very few liberal arts colleges that have anything that has to do with brewing,” Bruggeman said.

A few years ago, Remedy Brewing CEO Matt Hastad and his co-owner Tyler Jepperson — both Augustana alumni — started wondering if they would reel in better employees if they were better educated about beer. They did so while doing — what else — sipping on the nectar of their livelihood.

”We just tossed around the idea over a couple of beers of ‘hey, what if we got Augie in,’” Hastad said. “We both kind of laughed. Can you imagine? Augie’s a dry campus. There’s no way they’d go for an alcoholic program on their campus. But we just started a conversation.”

Turns out, administration eventually came around to it, and the program is part of the school’s long-range strategic plan called “Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030.”

“And that’s what’s fantastic about Augie right now,” Hastad said, “is that they are very creative. They are very exciting and willing to look at how they can offer programs that differentiate themselves as the leading liberal arts program in the Midwest.

Bruggeman, who arrived at Augie after Hastad and Jepperson started plotting their vision, has mapped out the program by researching other curriculum across the country.

Initially, Bruggeman just wanted to create and teach a “farm-to-table” class.

“We get to go through all kinds of methods of food preservation that humans have used for millennia,” Bruggeman said. “We started out with dehydration, and we go to salting, and we make dried fruit and dried vegetables and venison jerky.”

But she realized there was something more needed to attract students to the new course.

“I figured I need a hook for a class,” Bruggeman said, “and I went and got permission to make just a small, small batch of beer that we wouldn’t drink, and hard cider that we wouldn’t drink, either.”

It went over “really well,” and a conversation with Augustana Provost Dr. Colin Irvine evolved into a “brewing minor thing.”

“I worked with a couple other people on campus and investigated what it took at other universities and other schools throughout the United States that had a brewing minor and brewing major,” Bruggeman said.

The program was supposed to launch in 2020, but then the pandemic hit and put things like making beer in a lab with other students on hold.

Finally, the introductory “gateway” class took off this fall. It is called “Preserving the Planet with Beer, Bread, and Brie.”

On the day Dakota News Now visited campus, Bruggeman gave a taste of beer making to her microbiology class, as well. Some students in that class are brewing and fermentation minors.

“This is gravy for them, an added bonus,” Bruggeman said. “It’s just for the end of the semester, and they’ve all been stressed out. Theses days are fun.”

And what did they learn?

”That it’s a really intricate process,” Patel said. “It’s not as easy as it sounds. You have to get everything right. You know, get the temperature right. How much time you boil. How much hop you put in.”

A process that usually takes about a month to complete.

”It’s not just, you think, some Saturday afternoon, I’m going to make beer for tomorrow,” Bruggeman said as she laughed. “You know, you can’t make beer Saturday for Sunday’s game. That’s not the way it works.”

The concoction that the microbiology class cooked up looked something more like dense grapefruit juice. The yeasts take time to grow (ferment), and so it will be about 10 to 14 days before the class will test for the final alcohol content. Then, the beer will be bottled, and another 10-14 day wait will come to see how it truly comes out.”

What most beer lovers don’t realize, Hastad said, is how scientific and monotonous the process making the beer can be.

“Eighty to ninety percent of brewing is cleaning and processing,” Hastad said.

Next semester, Hastad will teach a class and take the students out of the classroom and into the Remedy brewery downtown and their new “taproom” location near the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

”Some hands-on activity in a brewery and see what it’s about, and understand why we do what we do,” Hastad said. “So, that way, when they graduate, they’ll have much better knowledge and know what they’re getting into when they look at beer.”

Along with the fun of brewing in the class will come alcohol and substance abuse education. Students will learn the ethics and “responsibilities” that come with the beer industry.

“We’re trying to create an education for these kids where it’s a bigger picture,” Bruggeman said. “Its not just beer, and it’s not just drinking beer.”

There are two “tracks” the brewing and fermentation minor at Augie will take students down. One is the “applied science” track, which is what Bruggeman’s course involves. Then, there will be the “business” track — which will include learning how to market beer and start a business that sells it.

In fact, when Remedy came up with a new “crisp American lager” designed specifically for consumption at Vikings football games this autumn, Bruggeman’s class came up with the name “Brew ‘n’ Gold,” while the label designed by one of the students, Cadence Stewart.

Part of Bruggeman’s vision is to eventually build an on-campus bar that students will operate and manage as part of their training for the real world, and Bruggeman is hoping Remedy and Fernson — another local brewery owned by Augie alumni — will offer internships to students.

For now, Bruggeman is just excited to have something brewing at the type of university that many would never expect to have one. After all, even its own successful beer-brewing alumni Hastad and Jepperson literally laughed at such an idea just a few years ago.

““It’s going really well,” Bruggeman said. “It’s exciting. The reception from the public has been great. We’re trying to teach responsibility and theory, and how this has been part of mankind for millennia.”