The growing trend to drink craft beer has become more popular with students
By Olivia Sorrells, Managing Editor
The country’s booming interest in craft beers has found its way into DeLand within the last year, especially for Stetson students. In spite of the college norm to drink the cheapest beer regardless of taste, bars in downtown DeLand now find themselves having to cater to student craft beer connoisseurs.
Not only do student craft beer drinkers want to try the newest and most interesting combinations of hops, wheat and barley by their favorite craft beer companies, but now they are making their own concoctions at home in their own home breweries.
Stetson students brew beer for credit
Stetson students have been brewing their own beers in class for years.
Dr. Tandy Grubbs, a Stetson chemistry professor, offers a class called “Brewing Science and Technology” to any student 21 or older and of any major on campus. However, Dr. Grubbs said the class had to be listed as another name for awhile to please Stetson’s administration and trustees.
“The course was first offered during the 2000-2001 academic year as an Independent Study, entitled ‘Applications of Glycolysis’ in reference to the biochemical pathway that takes place whereby malt (sugar) is initially metabolized by yeast during brewing,” Grubbs said in an email.
“Offering the course merely as an independent study, which required no faculty curriculum committee approval, and giving it an obscure scientific name seemed wise at the time – since we were not sure how the more conservative members of the Stetson administration and trustees would otherwise receive an on-campus course on ‘brewing beer,’” he said.
“Ten years later, in 2010 – once Stetson’s Baptist hangover had more fully subsided — I finally got brave enough to run the course through the curriculum committee, where it was approved as CHEM391 ‘Brewing Science & Technology’ (worth 0.5 units; pass/fail only).”
Biochemistry, microbiology and beer brewing are all done in Sage Hall for this class. After the students have completed a batch, they come together to do a “blind tasting” of all of the beers.
“Students judge and score each beer according to such qualities as appropriate carbonation, aroma, clarity, flavor-body, and aftertaste,” Grubbs said. “Points are accumulated during each tasting session, and the student earning the highest total score by semester’s end is honored with our annual ‘Brew Master Award.’”
The Brew Master Award was given out over the last three years to, Luciano Violante (2013), Jake Boyd (2012) and Amanda Silva (2011).
Space is limited in this class, Grubbs said, “Class sizes are usually restricted to about ten students – when spread out in a laboratory with all of their equipment to brew beer, ten students can fully occupy a science lab that would otherwise accommodate 24 students.”
Furthermore, there is not an “official” waiting list, but interest in this class starts years before students register, he said.
“It is not uncommon for students to approach me 1-2 years in advance, asking if I will reserve a seat for them in CHEM391. With such a small class size, waitlists are inevitable, and have usually been 5 – 10 students in length.”
The class is extremely hands-on and actively applying science to real world processes. The students work on three batches throughout the semester which heavily relies on independent research on the combinations and ingredients of craft beers, as well as instruction in the beginning to get them started.
“All the students make the same style beer for batch #1 – a light American Ale, prepared from a kit. The variation in beers that result from this first round can be quite instructive – students learn that even though they all followed the same recipe and the same set of instructions, you still see a wide variation in the quality of the resulting beers. For batches #2 and #3, students select the type of beer they will make, which requires some independent research into the different types of beer that can be made – using only ingredients that are relatively easy to obtain from the local grocery and craft brew stores.”
Grubbs would love to incorporate some official ‘beer judging’ training into the course, he added, which “ideally should involve some organized tastings carried out by a trained and certified guest beer tasting judge.”
Home brewing gains popularity
According to the American Homebrewers Association, over 1 million people brew their own beer at home in the United States. Some home breweries have evolved into local beer brewing companies or join other clubs in the area to compete with other homebrewers.
The Volusia County Home Brewers Guild (VCHBG) began in January 2009 at the Abbey in DeLand. According to their website, “The Volusia County Home Brewers Guild is comprised of individuals dedicated to the fine art and science of making and drinking beer, wine and mead. The goal of the club is to get members involved in handcrafting these things.”
The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), is offered by the VCHBG with assistance from other Florida homebrew clubs. This includes training members to broaden their knowledge of the beer processes, styles, tastes and identification.
The VCHBG also holds several parties, events and tasting for their members, including beer, wine and mead. Club members are also encouraged to participate in local and national American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and BJCP sanctioned craft beer and homebrew competitions.
Local DeLandites Andy Sistrunk and Robbie Carelli have followed in fellow homebrewers’ footsteps and created Persimmon Hollowing Brewing Company, which is scheduled to open in early summer. Sistrunk, co-owner of the brewing company, said “We will target Stetson faculty, staff and graduate students” and “our average beer will be about $5 a pint in our tap room.”
Carelli, a Stetson graduate, Stetson IT staff member and co-owner of Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company, said “More and more young people are getting into craft beer earlier and I hope this unique trend continues.”
He noted that this brewery will also cater to the traditional target market of craft beer drinkers, as well as this trend of younger consumers.
Sistrunk said they began brewing beer at home for their own personal consumption but having a brewery was never part of their original plan. They enjoyed making beers and trying different combinations over and over again. Then they entered their brews into a contest amongst friends and won. From there, they began to develop the possibilities of their company.
The Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company was named after DeLand’s original name Persimmon Hollow, before the change in the 1870s. The brewing company and tap room, where they directly serve the beer from their brewery, will be located in the old parking garage, turned warehouse and now brewery, at 111 W. Georgia Ave.
Sistrunk added with the name and the historic nature of their building, this company and brewery has “roots here for sure.”
The Grotto, the newest open beer and wine bar downtown DeLand, specializes in craft beer, domestic beer, wine and food. According to their Facebook, they have over 60 beers on tap and 20 different wines available.
Joe O’Brien, a Grotto bartender and Stetson alumnus, said there is a “definitely an interest in craft beer” from Stetson students. He said, “their first option is craft beer and if they can’t find it then they go to domestics” when they come in.
“The number-one selling craft beer is Terrapin Hopsecutioner,” O’Brien said. “And IPA’s and Belgian Ales are always popular.”
DeLand beer gets crafty
The diverse interest in unique craft beers culminates itself in this community as the annual Craft Beer Festival. Hosted by local bars and breweries, this year’s festival will feature over 70 breweries, over 20 Florida breweries, along with rare and cask beers, according to its website.
This year’s main festival will run on Feb. 8 and 9. Tickets and times are available on the festival’s website.