(208d) From Concept to Class: Pitt’s Engr 1933 – Engineering a Craft Brewery | AIChE

(208d) From Concept to Class: Pitt’s Engr 1933 – Engineering a Craft Brewery


Parker, R. - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
The craft brewing industry is expanding rapidly: year-over year growth in the number of craft breweries has been over 15% annually since 2012 (http://brewersassociation.org). There are 6266 craft breweries operating at the start of 2018.. The industry provides an outlet for engineers looking to use their technical skills in brewing and distilling, as well as for entrepreneurs who may consider starting their own brewing business. Through this course, students can learn impactful problem-solving. Engineering skills, combined with solid scientific understanding, allow students to design solutions to production-oriented challenges.

The content of the course spans the brewing process, from reactants (malt, water, hops, and yeast) to packaged product. We introduce the brewing process and beer styles, followed by a step-by-step walkthrough of the equipment and operating conditions needed to design and yield a customer-pleasing product. The raw materials – base and specialty malts, water with specific chemistry, hops of various styles and flavors, and the breadth of yeasts – are discussed in the context of product design, where the students design beers we brew and sample at a semester-end event. Engineering calculations are introduced throughout the course to achieve the design specifications and move the product through the various units. Part of the presentation will focus on the course content, assessments and projects, and student perceptions.

Putting a class like this in place is decidedly more difficult than the usual engineering course, given the possible issues that can arise when mixing undergraduates and beer. The other focus of this presentation will be the legal, policy, and University challenges that we encountered in proposing ENGR 1933, and ways others could benefit from our experience. A key challenge was the intent to serve alcohol as part of the course, which was ultimately approved.

This class has been offered twice, once in 2017 and once in 2018. The first class was the most successful first-time offering of an elective in the history of the Swanson School of Engineering. The almost 150 students who have taken the class to date find it challenging, but very enjoyable. The presentation will close by discussing the design and execution of our 2018 study abroad trip: Farm to Tap in the Belgian Style. The overall aim of this presentation is to help those interested in launching a class like this on their campus to move quickly through the design and implementation hurdles that could otherwise slow their first offering.