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NMSU’s brewery engineering program creates new concoctions

The recipe may only call for four ingredients, but brewing beer is a science, and the brewery engineering program at New Mexico State University offers students the opportunity to prepare for careers in the growing industry.


Man pours a beer into a glass.
Stephen Taylor, New Mexico State University Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering adjunct professor in the brewery engineering program, pours a beer sample during a sensory evaluation training Aug. 6, when NMSBrew hosted Lindsay Barr from the New Belgium Brewing Company. (NMSU photo by Tiffany Acosta)
Man holds up and looks at a glass of beer.
Carlos Wendler, New Mexico State University Chemical and Materials Engineering alumnus, evaluates a beer sample during a sensory evaluation panel Aug. 6. Faculty from the brewery engineering program taught participants how to evaluate beer based on visual, aroma, taste and mouthfeel descriptions. (NMSU photo by Tiffany Acosta)

In 2017, 67 New Mexico-based craft breweries, an increase from 25 New Mexico breweries in 2011, produced more than 116,000 barrels of beer last year, which had a $333 million impact on the state’s economy based on data from the Brewers Association.

Brewery Engineering at NMSU, called NMSBrew, is a minor program in the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. Department head and director of NMSBrew David Rockstraw said the program was established after a couple of students insisted the department should be brewing in the lab. He agreed after learning about the growing need for engineers trained on the details of brewery operations.

“I assigned the task of design and economic analysis of the pilot brewery to a group of seniors, who performed the design as part of their capstone project in 2015,” he said.

“This industry continues to grow as consumers demand fresh, locally-produced craft beers of a variety of styles. This growth pattern will likely persist for several years. Competition in the industry is strong, and thus it is expected that some breweries will not succeed. NMSBrew provides engineering and analytical services and trained personnel who will provide New Mexico breweries a commercial advantage,” Rockstraw said.

On Aug. 6, Chemical and Materials Engineering hosted a sensory evaluation training with Lindsay Barr from the New Belgium Brewing Company. She taught NMSBrew faculty and advisers on how to conduct a sensory evaluation during the morning session. NMSU faculty, staff, students and alumni participated in sensory panels led by the NMSBrew faculty in the afternoon sessions. The panels learned how to evaluate beer using visual, aroma, taste and mouthfeel descriptions.

Chemical and Materials Engineering has offered the Brewing Science and Technology course for about 10 years and it includes nearly 100 students per semester. The Brewery Engineering course had 17 students enrolled in the spring, and Rockstraw said several found jobs in the industry. A new minor in brewery engineering was available during the 2017-2018 academic year.

The program offered a summer international brewery studies course for the first time this year to England and Ireland that included 10 students, and has plans to visit Belgium and Holland next year. NMSBrew faculty Catherine Brewer, assistant professor, and Stephen Taylor, adjunct professor, led the trip. NMSBrew has new two facilities in Jett Hall, Seidel Brewery Pilot Plant and NMSBrew Analysis Laboratory.

For more information on NMSBrew visit https://chme.nmsu.edu/nmsbrew/.