MSU Denver Beer Students Get Million-Dollar Equipment Upgrade

You don’t have to look far to find a brewery—these days, it seems like there’s one on every corner in Colorado and beyond. And it’s more than a sentiment: Over the past 15 years, the number of breweries in the United States has exploded from 1,511 in 2007 to 9,247 in 2021, according to a tally by the Brewers Association based in Boulder. And all of these breweries need to hire people who can make beer, ideally experienced professionals who know commercial brewing equipment and can get to work.

That’s where Metropolitan State University Denver’s hands-on brewery operations courses come in. Now, MSU Denver’s School of Hospitality program is getting a boost in the form of a new 3.5-barrel, 108.5-gallon brewing system that’s comparable to what craft breweries actually use in their facilities. The million dollar gear upgrade is also backed by a little star power. When it opens, ideally in early 2023, the university will officially name the new system the “Charlie Papazian Brewing Education Lab”.

Papazian is a household name in the beer world, responsible for founding the Brewers Association, the American Homebrewers Association, and the beloved annual Great American Beer Festival, to name a few accomplishments. “Charlie Papazian is one hell of a personality – he’s like the godfather of home brewing in the country and specifically craft brewing in Colorado,” says Bernado Alatorre, speaker and acting director of the brewery operations program. “He also really likes our program and is a big supporter. It has a lot of charisma, it interests and attracts the general public to artisanal brewing. He is certainly one of brewing’s greatest ambassadors.

Charlie Papazyan. Photo courtesy of MSU Denver Host School

To name a facility after a specific person or entity like Papazian, donors must contribute at least 50% of the construction costs before the university participates. . To help close the remaining $75,000 gap, MSU Denver has also launched a crowdfunding campaign “for home brewers, beer enthusiasts and members of the public,” said Steve Galpern, senior director of development at MSU Denver. People who wish to donate can donate as little as $5 to the cause; shelling out more means receiving perks like a logo beer glass, a t-shirt, or an autographed copy of Papazian’s book The complete joy of homebrewing.

Students studying beer at MSU Denver, something they’ve been able to do since 2015, are currently practicing on a smaller 15-gallon system that’s more akin to a homebrew setup, Alatorre says. The new equipment will include three fermentation tanks, a steam generator, a refrigeration system and an electronic management system. “It will have the ability to produce a lot more beer and will also illustrate to students the intricacies of a trading system,” Alatorre said. “It’s more related to the systems that a student would discover in the workplace. It really is a mirror image of many, many systems.

The new lab will be located inside the university’s Hospitality Learning Center, adjacent to the on-campus SpringHill Suites Downtown Denver hotel, where MSU Denver students get hands-on experience and training in hospitality. Project funding will also help expand seating at the Degree Metropolitan Food + Drink bar, allowing members of the public to sample beer brewed by the students and share their feedback.

“It’s going to take the program to a whole different level,” says Alatorre. “We try to ensure that students are better prepared for real-world and market challenges. Brewing is such an integral part of Colorado culture and American culture that it’s here to stay.

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