Tastes in beer might have changed over the past 50 years and technology has changed some of the processes, but the science behind brewing has changed little over hundreds of years.
The science behind brewing is also the basis of Federation University's brewing course, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary as the only post-graduate brewing course in the country.
But while the catch-cry "get on the beers" peaked after premier Daniel Andrews said the words during a press conference in March 2020 (ironically he cautioned people about the pandemic saying "You won't be able to go to the pub because the pub is shut. That doesn't mean you can have all your mates around to (your) home and get on the beers,") the pandemic means there will be no celebratory beers to mark the course's milestone.
At Fed Uni's own brewery the next generation of craft brewers are learning to blend the science and art of brewing to create their own drinks. In cases they dream of opening their own brewery, a far cry from the original students who were mostly studying to get jobs in existing large breweries after graduating from the course offered at the Fed Uni's predecessor institution Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education (BIAE).
Dr David Bean, senior lecturer in microbiology and fermentation technology heads the Fed Uni brewery having been part of the course for about 10 years and said the pace of change within brewing has never been faster.
"If we were to have a look at alcohol sales, the sales of general bright lagers - which is what most people consider a typical beer - are trending downwards. Those that are trending up include craft beers, which is what most of our students are interested in, but there are also products like low-alcohol beers or even no-alcohol beers that are growing in popularity and worth considering a little bit more," Dr Bean said.
"The basic science remains the same but of course when you start thinking about new recipes, new flavours, new ingredients, there's new science to be introduced there."
Dr Bean said new hop varieties were driving a surge in hop-driven beer and there was a lot of science behind hops and hop-breeding to produce new varieties.
"Then there's entirely new styles and those enjoying a renaissance like sour beer. I don't particularly profess to liking sour beer but they have a place and are gaining in popularity and momentum and bring in new areas of science, biochemistry and microbiology which are very different to what you do in a traditional ferment.
"New craft beer ideas, new flavours, profiles and types of beer are all fundamentally underpinned by science, though perhaps different branches of science."
Happy 50th anniversary to our #brewing course! #FunFact: #FedUni was the first uni in Australia to offer a brewing course & we are still the only institution to provide postgraduate studies in brewing!— Federation University (@FedUniAustralia) October 16, 2021
Want to know more? Visit https://t.co/2js0QsF1CS#FedTAFE#beer#craftbeerpic.twitter.com/JxasOp9A1L
Dr Bean said with a proud history of teaching the science behind making great beers, the course had to remain contemporary and reflect evolving industry trends to train the next generation of brewers.
"We've been in consultation with industry partners to ensure the courses are what people in the field want - we have to ensure that the course is fit for purpose," he said.
And the profile of the students themselves are changing too.
While still male-dominated there are an increasing number of women interested in brewing, and some great breweries now run by women. Of the 10 students currently in the graduate certificate program, two are women.
Many of the students have had successful careers in other fields and are looking to change to something they are more passionate about.
Let's be honest, if we were to celebrate we would like to have lots of people around to share a beer with ... we might do a 51-year celebration insteadAssociate Professor Andrew Greenhill
"We get people already working in mostly craft breweries who are either encouraged by their employer, or off their own bat, to learn more and there are a lot of people who have had quite successful careers in other placed decide to try something different.
"(It's no longer) an industry dominated by big brewers, but big brewer are still there and making a lot of money ... so brewers are not necessarily trained by big industry as they once were.
"They can maybe brew a good palatable beer but when you want to start producing it and produce a consistent quality product that always tastes the same you need to know about science, what they can tweak and what they can't tweak and that's where our course comes in."
The first lectures in the university's brewing course began in 1971 at what is now the SMB campus, but the brewery's beginnings go back to the late 1960s when BIAE senior lecturer in organic chemistry Geoffrey Barrell traveled overseas to study the possibility of setting up a postgraduate malting and brewing course after working as a chemist and assistant brewer at the Ballarat Brewing Company.
Dr Peter Aldred was head brewer from 1998 until early 2020, having joined the university from Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) when the craft beer revolution was just kicking off and the popularity of the brewing course take off.
"Craft beers had started getting popular by the time I arrived at Federation. There were a few smaller craft breweries at the time, but it went from 20 to 30 breweries in Australia during my first years to somewhere between 600 to 700 breweries in 20 or so years," Dr Aldred said.
Dr Aldred overhauled the course to its current format which sees lectures and most work done online with students coming to Ballarat for a week of workshops.
Graduates of the course include Rob Callin at Macalister Brewing Co in Cairns, Mathew Moore at Perth's Bright Tank Brewing Co, and Dan Dainton at Dainton Brewery in Carrum Downs. Other graduates have gone on to work for major brewers.
Another student, Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, completed the Graduate Diploma in Malting and Brewing in 1975 and went on to create Biocon, India's largest biopharmaceutical company.
Dr Bean said while the university's brewery was fairly manual, there was a strong focus on emerging technologies.
"Brewing at its essence is unchanged since antiquity, the basic process has been largely unchanged but of course there are technological advances so we monitor the process much better now, keep water at a certain temperature, keep the ferment at a certain temperature but obviously we are looking at technical innovation," he said.
"There are new processes that larger breweries are using that are probably out of reach of the craft brewer but we teach those things as well so students are aware of all the tech out there."
At the same time some of those processes could be achieved by modifying the brewing process without big infrastructure investments.
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"There's as much or as little technology as you want," said Associate Professor Andrew Greenhill, who heads up the Fed Uni course with Dr Bean.
"We actually have a philosophy the brewery at Fed Uni is fairly manual compared to a modern brewery with high end touch screens ... but we teach intentionally on a fairly manual system to improve understanding of the system then people can adapt to automation."
Associate Professor Greenhill said COVID restrictions meant celebrations for the course's milestone would be put on hold.
"Let's be honest, if we were to celebrate we would like to have lots of people around to share a beer with ... we might do a 51-year celebration instead!"
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