Beyond just beer: fermentation science at Colorado State University

Anna Fagre

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Photos Courtesy of Dr. Laura Bauer.


The Fermentation Science and Technology major at Colorado State University encompasses much more than just beer. 

Professors aim to expose students to a variety of food and non-alcoholic beverages through lecture and a hands-on laboratory component where they may take part in preparing fermented food products.

One instructor in particular, Dr. Laura Bauer, helps students make connections in class to their potential careers. Bauer teaches a course titled the Science of Food Fermentation.

Products produced in this course include kombucha, fermented sausage, cheese, kimchi, sourdough bread, yogurt and tempeh. The course also teaches students the historical and cultural aspects of food fermentation, including a wide gamut of health benefits.

“The lab component allows students to replicate on a small scale what could be done in industrial applications,” Bauer said.

The on-campus New Belgium Fermentation Science and Technology Laboratory is comprised of a brewing lab, a research and prep kitchen, an office and a multipurpose room, all located inside the Gifford Building.

Odell Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Anheuser-Busch, InBev, Atlas Copco and K-Malt are some of the companies that have provided donations and subsidies supporting a majority of the brewing and processing equipment in this space, said Jeff Callaway, the program’s director of industry outreach. Currently under renovation, Callaway is hopeful the completion of the brewing space will be finished in the first quarter of 2016.

Lauren Sandell, a fermentation science and technology student, said the major is rapidly growing in popularity.

“A lot of people think it’s just beer,” Sandell said. We don’t just drink beer. I’ve never taken a class during which I’ve consumed beer and it’s my fifth semester in this major.”

Fermentation science and technology majors take the same science classes as biology students – microbiology, fermentation microbiology, biochemistry, food microbiology, organic chemistry and more. Sandell said she loves the major because she loves science.


“If you don’t love science, it’s not the route you should take,” Sandell said. She said taking the Science of Food Fermentation course with Bauer has reinforced her passion for fermented foods.

Bauer said, in addition to the palatability of fermented foods, the live microorganisms are often alive in raw form and help predigest proteins and carbohydrates, making food substrates digestible and nutrients bioavailable. The acidification process makes the products more shelf-stable.

According to Bauer, an education in food fermentation prepares students to work in small or large businesses by directly producing these products. Students may also work for companies that produce cultures or find success in the food science and food safety industries.

This is the fourth year Bauer has offered the Science of Food Fermentation course, and in that time, the class size has grown from 15 to 41 students. Most students in the class are food science and technology majors, though a diverse array of majors are also represented.

The equipment and technologies available to students will allow them to learn the systems and processes necessary for food and beverage production.

“This is a science and technology degree, not a manufacturing program, and our emphasis makes that clear,” Callaway said.

The department is continuously offering new courses for interested students. Callaway said this semester, a Food Production Management course is being offered for the first time. In the spring, new courses focusing on packing technologies and the sensory of fermented foods will be offered.

“Ultimately,” Bauer said, “students are learning the rich traditional history of these foods and beverages and can enjoy these unique flavors and benefits in a Western diet.”

Collegian Science Reporter Anna Fagre can be reached online at

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the product being made in the Gifford Building would be for sale in the Lory Student Center. The Collegian has corrected this error.