Beer 101

College courses are predominantly boring, right?  Don’t pretend like you disagree with me.  I was in college not too long ago; about 90% of my classes made me want to bash my head repeatedly against the desk just to stay awake:

– Macroeconomics 1310.

– 19th Century English Literature 2300.

– General Physics 1450.

– German 4300.


The remaining 10% of my classes that were actually interesting were — in retrospect — probably not the most educational courses that I could have taken:  Human Sexuality, Backpacking & Camping, Racquetball and Ballistics & Firearms.  Yes, I took a college course on guns.  Only in Texas…

But the genius college administrators at University of King’s College in Halifax have finally created a course that appeals to the masses, is endlessly fascinating AND will provide students with knowledge to serve them well for the rest of their lives:  Brewing Science: The History, Culture and Science of Beer, aka Beer 101.

According to the university’s website, the enormously popular course studies the beer’s connection to and influence on “the development of the modern world, with its emphasis on measurement and calculation, sanitation movements, tax reforms, bacteriology, and experiments on life, culminating in 19th century thermodynamic theory…”

In addition to the lecture portion of the course, students also take field trips to breweries and reconstruct experiments.  I’m hoping that “reconstructing experiments” actually means “homebrewing,” since that would up the coolness factor of this course exponentially.

The guys at Saint Arnold are right, though: beer is one of the foundations of the modern world, whether people want to acknowledge that fact or not.  Anyone can make wine.  Hell, if you leave grapes on the ground to rot, they’ll ferment and create wine — disgusting wine, yes, but wine nevertheless — on their own.  But brewing beer is a craft — art and science married together — and has had a tremendous effect on the development of trade, agriculture and science throughout the Western world.

Part of me feels like people would be more apt to appreciate beer — instead of either (a) drinking swill like Natural Light or (b) abusing it — if they took courses like this.  Beer gets a bad rap; too many people associate it with frat parties, keggers and beer bongs.  People look at me like I’ve grown a third eye when I tell them that I’m a beer snob: Beer?  What’s there to be snobbish about when it comes to beer?  And you don’t look like a beer-drinker anyway…

To which I reply:  Perhaps, but I also don’t look like the kind of girl who would take a firearms course, either…

There’s so much more to beer than meets the eye.  Cooking with beer, cleverly pairing beer with food, brewing your own beer at home, enjoying one of the Flying Saucer’s famous beer flights and discovering a new favorite stout or pale ale, picking out subtle differences between lagers or just enjoying a round with your friends after a long day at work.  Beer deserves more credit than it currently gets.

But I have a feeling that we’re on the threshhold of a new era, one in which beer will finally find the same kind of credibility as wine has gotten for so many years, one in which “beer connoisseur” is no longer a joke or an oxymoron.  Just give it a bit more time…and a few more colleges giving courses like Beer 101.

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