• Image about Charlie Bamforth
Professor Tom Shellhammer (right), discussing the total package air content of a bottle of beer with student Nick ­Adcock at Oregon State University. One of the most oxygen-sensitive beverages, beer suffers greatly when not ­packaged properly.
Chris Mueller

As brewpubs and microbreweries grow in popularity, college students are opting for a different kind of sudsy experience.

It’s a look Charlie Bamforth has seen more times than he’d care to remember. A professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, Bamforth inevitably runs into colleagues he doesn’t know when he’s on campus. “They say, ‘What do you teach?’ ” says Bamforth, an Englishman who has a quick laugh and a keen sense of humor. “And I say, ‘Brewing,’ and you can see by the look on their faces that they think it’s just one step removed from basket weaving.”

That sort of dismissive snobbery isn’t unheard of among those who inhabit the ivory tower. But to be fair, it probably isn’t just tweed-wearing, ?Shakespeare-quoting academics who have to muffle giggles when they meet a university professor — the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science, no less — who teaches college kids how to make beer. Movies like ?Animal House, annual magazine listings of the top party schools and the experiences of many of us who went to college all serve to reinforce the equation of: [college students + beer = frat parties and drunken foolishness] (and too often, more serious problems).
  • Image about Charlie Bamforth
Student Nick Adcock prepares a beer for chemical analysis.
Chris Mueller

But for Bamforth, who was a research manager for Bass, the legendary brewer in Great Britain, when he was just 31 and had a long career in the brewing industry before he began teaching, that image is completely foreign to his collegiate experience. “If you really want to see chemistry and biochemistry and microbiology and chemical engineering, if you want to see all those things in action, come study brewing,” he says. “This is the application of science and engineering.”

And in fact, more and more students around the country? are opting to study brewing. Bamforth has seen a steady rise in the number of students who are ?taking his courses, and the school’s extension course in master brewing is booked solid for years to come. At UC Davis, which has had an on-campus brewery for instruction purposes since 1958, students can pursue full-time degree programs leading to a Bachelor of ?Science in food science with a brewing concentration or take advantage of shorter brewing courses through the school’s extension programs. Although UC Davis and Oregon State University are the only universities in the United States that offer degree programs focusing on brewing, other schools like West Virginia University and Central Washington University offer brewing courses and certificate programs. Starting in the fall of 2012, Colorado State University will offer an MBA for students interested in mastering the management side of running a brewery.