The Science of Brewing, one of the newest courses in the Science Department, generated a LOT of interest among the students last spring. That is, until they saw the prerequisite – general chemistry. Although the name might cause one to wonder about the academic nature of the course, the students who took the course found out that it is indeed a serious science course. The course was conceived by assistant professor Dr. Garth Patterson to study the wide range of biological and physical processes that take place during the brewing process. Just like any other course offered at the Mount, Dr. Patterson aimed to make the course content connect to other courses being taught in other classrooms. “It was my intent to provide context to the same type of material that is taught in other classes, allowing students to have a better understanding of why we might ask them to be more fully engaged with a topic.” The laboratory portion of the course involves experiments devoted to water analysis using atomic absorption, gas analysis of hops’ aromas, ultraviolet-visible spectrometry analysis of alpha and beta acids in hops, and liquid density analysis to confirm alcohol content. The experiments developed for this class have exposed students to scientific instrumentation that they might not otherwise have access to as part of their required coursework.
As well as being a professor at the Mount, Dr. Garth Patterson is also Chief Executive Officer of Cherry Lane Group, LLC, an analytical chemistry company. He holds 15 U.S. patents and has several international patents which mostly focus on the development of novel designs for mass spectrometers and related components. Mass spectrometers are widely used for many applications from detecting traces of explosives at airport check points to analyzing food and beverage products. Dr. Patterson is thrilled with the success and popularity of his new course and is currently serving as the faculty advisor of the new Brewing Club. He hopes to build on the interest of this course by adding related courses that would be accessible to a larger group of students. Dr. Patterson explains, “Students in the brewing club are coming from all academic disciplines at the Mount, discussing the context of the beer we brew and their own areas of interest. The students are making connections on their own, without intervention or contrived exercises.”