University of Minnesota researchers are working to cure disease, protect the environment, and develop breakthrough technologies. They’re also working to craft the next great beer. In addition to being avid home brewers, many are experts in growing the best barley and hops, and educating the public on the art and science of beer.
Minnesota had 39 active brewer permits in 2010, according to the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild, and the future of the state’s craft beer industry looks bright.
While most commercial hops are currently grown in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, a research team at the U of M and a quarter-acre of hops may someday change that. Horticultural science professor Vince Fritz and research associate Charlie Rohwer are identifying which varieties of hops will grow best in Midwest climates and what kind of trellis system they will thrive on.
“We’re interested in helping growers cultivate a high-quality crop and grow enough of it so they can turn a profit,” says Rohwer.
Now in its third year, this small project has gained notoriety among Midwest microbrewers, who are increasingly interested in sourcing ingredients locally. Earlier this spring, the project team received a grant to purchase a small mechanical harvester for the hop yards.
It’s not beer without barley — and Gary Muehlbauer, a professor in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, is part of a nationwide project to overcome disease and increase the efficiency of barley breeding by sharing genomic data across several breeding programs.
“The idea here is to try and make barley into a more efficient crop and more flexible, or more plastic in terms of its ability to change during the changing of the climate,” he says.
The project is grooming a group of doctoral students to become experts in breeding and genetics in wheat and barley, so they can take positions in industry and academia in those focus areas.
Read a recent profile on Muehlbauer and his barley research.
Quality on tap
Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew, an adjunct U of M professor, teaches courses through the College of Continuing Education on the basics of beer appreciation, serving samples from major local brewers like Summit and Surly.
Agnew says that Minnesotans ages 30 and younger have never had a difficult time finding their choice of quality artisan beer.
“They’ve embraced good beer as a matter of fact.”
Comment to win tickets to The U & Brew
Has all this beer talk whetted your appetite for more? Comment below and you could score tickets to The U & Brew, an exclusive beer tasting taking place June 28 at The Campus Club. Simply answer the following question for a chance to win two tickets (worth $40) to this special event…
What’s your favorite summer beverage (beer or otherwise)?
We’ll pick someone from the hat and email the winner on Friday, June 8. Don’t want to wait? Call today and make your reservations. See the flyer for details.