Point Park University’s popular Brewing Science Academy received a boost from the state of Pennsylvania in the form of a $39K grant to help expand the program and create more opportunities for aspiring brewers. Governor Tom Wolf announced the grant on October 19 as part of the state’s overall effort to increase the production and awareness of Pennsylvania-made malt and brewed beverages and wines. In all, the state is awarding $1,788,924 for 21 projects.
“We’re honored that Governor Wolf’s efforts to boost Pennsylvania’s production of wine and beer recognized the value of our program,” said Gregg Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical engineering at Point Park University and a developer of the Brewing Science Academy. Introduced last year, the Brewing Science Academy is a multi-week, on-ground course, non-certificate program designed for current and aspiring brewers to help provide a trained workforce to beer breweries.
Point Park University’s beer brewing program is the only one of its kind in Western Pennsylvania. The most recent brewing program, held in the spring of 2022, was made possible with collaborations between Point Park faculty, Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) members and beer industry experts.
Beer is big business in Pennsylvania. According to a 2020 report by the Brewers Association trade group, PA is home to more than 400 independent craft breweries, rolling out some 3,156,074 barrels of beer, which is the second highest in the U.S., behind California.
“As anyone who likes beer knows, microbreweries and tap rooms can be found all across our state, but on the back end, there’s often a scarcity of trained or professional workforce for jobs at these breweries and that’s why we developed this program,” said Johnson. To date, nearly 30 students have attended the Brewing Science Academy with goals that include finding positions at regional breweries or leveraging their Academy experience for better positions at their current breweries.
For Scott Wyman, a member of the Brewing Science Academy’s inaugural class and co-owner and head brewer at Tortured Souls Brewing, the program provided a solid overview of the craft and industry. In addition to the scientific aspects of good brewing were particularly important to his business. “The classes accentuated the need to focus on not just grain and hops but the mineral content and quality of water. This has been one of the biggest things that have changed the way I brew.”
According to Johnson, part of the University’s grant award will go toward helping to develop an analysis service for area brewers who don’t have access to industry instrumentation. This service will help brewers identify sources of spoilage, like bacteria and wild yeasts, and correct them. “Brewing beer is part art, part science and with this grant, we’ll be able to make strides in helping PA brewers maximize the quality of their product,” he added.
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