The largest brewing system to be located at a university, and the first in Kentucky, has been delivered to the Center for Research and Development at Western Kentucky University.
Alltech Inc. of Lexington is leasing space in the Center to start a craft beer brewing operation using the seven-barrel micro brewing production system and will pay the renovation and installation costs. In addition, Alltech will develop a lab for students so they can gain hands-on experience and conduct research.
“Craft brewing is one of the fastest-growing industries in Kentucky,” said Andrew McMichael, Assistant Dean of WKU’s Potter College of Arts & Letters. He and Cathleen Webb, Associate Dean for Research for WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering, are working with Alltech and WKU’s Division of Extended Learning and Outreach to offer a summer institute of four courses starting June 15.
In addition, Drs. McMichael and Webb are developing the curriculum for a brewing and distilling program and plan to present it to the faculty this fall. “Faculty input is critical,” Dr. Webb said, adding the program would be co-directed by Potter and Ogden colleges.
Drs. McMichael and Webb spent a year talking with people in the brewing and distilling industry, asking what educational background they wanted in their employees and what they wish they knew when they started in the industry. They said the answers were fairly uniform and are being used in the curriculum development.
“We want to be responsive to the needs of the industry which is looking for a broad, liberal arts and science background,” Dr. McMichael said. “Our program is being designed to prepare students to work at any level in the growing brewing and distilling industry.”
While the Alltech brewery operation and the curriculum are independent, they will work together to make the program better and unique, Dr. Webb said. Having the student lab located with the brewery and next to other labs in the Center, such as the Water Quality Lab, will put the program steps ahead, she added.
The brewery is expected to begin operations this fall.