Specializing in brewing and distilling may sound like the wishful thinking of many a university student, but it is indeed a formal degree, and leading biotechnology company Alltech considers master’s graduates from the program to be essential to its core business and new product development. For this reason, the company is proud to congratulate its 16th employee to receive a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University, known for producing some of the foremost brewing and yeast fermentation experts in the world.
According to Becky Timmons, global director of applications research and quality assurance for Alltech, Heriot-Watt’s course is the most helpful and practical advanced education for employees given Alltech’s focus on yeast fermentation technologies. Employees who have participated in the program include researchers, quality specialists and senior salespeople.
“A brewing and distilling master’s program is not just about drinking beer and making whiskey,” said Timmons. “Yeast fermentation is fundamental to our core business in animal health and nutrition. To understand our products and what they do, this is the best course you can take.”
Alltech works with universities globally to collaborate on research, create further educational opportunities for its employees and provide work experiences to the universities’ current students. To date, the company has inked 20 formal research alliances with universities in all corners of the world.
Although Alltech does not currently have a formal research alliance with Heriot-Watt, it does have a long-standing relationship. Since 2000, 16 Alltech employees have obtained a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from the Scottish university.
Although employees are required to pay 20 percent of the program tuition initially as a representation of their personal commitment, Alltech covers the entire tuition for employees upon their graduation. Heriot-Watt’s program involves nine modules, which may be taken independently, an on-site summer practicum and a thesis. Most employees complete their degree within four years.
The growing wealth of expertise is exciting to Timmons and Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech.
“These graduates will be the pioneers of our new product development,” said Dr. Lyons. “They also represent the specialized yeast fermentation technology expertise that we’ll be bringing to our new Alltech Brewing & Distilling Academy in Lexington, Ky., USA.”
The expertise of the Heriot-Watt graduates to date has been applied to a variety of Alltech’s global initiatives ranging from algae and animal nutrition product development to the company’s growing international beverage division, which produces the Kentucky Ale family of beers, as well as Town Branch bourbon and other spirits.
In addition to the 16 graduates, there are six employees in the program currently as well as a number of other employees who will be commencing their studies soon.