WKU Brewing and Distilling Arts & Sciences

Published: Apr. 17, 2017 at 3:08 PM CDT
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Many college students are well-versed in the consumption of beer - but what about studying beer - Its history, how it's made, marketed and sold?

That's the idea behind the Brewing and Distilling Arts & Sciences program at WKU, where students help run a real-life production brewery located in the WKU Center for Research and Development.

"Our students work here at the brewery," said professor Andrew McMichael, "so unlike any other program in the country, they're actually getting hands-on experience in a way that they will out in the workforce."

McMichael says the university structured the program based on industry feedback

"We interviewed brewers and distillers from around Kentucky. We asked only two questions, 'what do you want to see on a transcript from someone at Western to hire them' and 'what do you wish you had known before you got into this business?'

The answer - not just fermentation science - but also the business, legal and historical aspects of the industry

"You don't get to see this side of it and the science behind it," said WKU junior Seth Robinson. "You think just of going into a Kroger and seeing the beer on the shelves but you don't get to see actually what goes into making it."

Students earn a certificate to go along with their primary major - many of them also studying business, agriculture and chemistry. The program is thanks to a partnership between WKU and Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company..

McMichael says, "Our partnership with Alltech has positioned this program in a way that no other university could have ever hoped for."

This means a beer you might be seeing in restaurants and on store shelves is brewed in Bowling Green.

Joe Walls is brewery supervisor and the only full-time employee.

"Everyone seems to like it. We keep making it, so somebody's drinking it, i guess, you know?"

That beer is College Heights Ale and this brewery can potentially produce more than 500 gallons of it a day.

"Students are walking out of college with the skill-set where they can jump right in," said Walls.

That includes students like Seth Robinson, a junior from Springfield, Kentucky in the heart of bourbon country.

"I knew there were a lot of different kinds of beer. but different kinds of yeast, different kinds of grains and extract, and there's just a lot of different stuff that goes into the process," said Robinson.

Brewers and beer importers generate $83 billion into the American economy, giving these students a shot at a lucrative career.

"You drive past a picturesque distillery and you'd be like, 'well it'd be neat to work there someday' so actually getting into that opportunity now, it's very exciting," said Robinson.

McMichael added, "The way the craft spirits industry is now, it's getting in on the ground floor."