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Montana Ag Network: Montana State University's academic brewing license approved

MSU Brewing License .jpg
Posted at 7:13 PM, Apr 10, 2024

BOZEMAN — Montana State University’s barley, malt, and brewing quality lab was recently granted a license that allows them to brew beer right on campus.

“One of the things you see in front of you is the barley breeding material for this year,” Jamie Sherman, an associate professor for the barley breeding program told me as she gave me a tour.

Sherman showed me around the west wing greenhouse on the Montana State University campus, where the barley grows year-round.

Montana State’s barley, malt, and brewing quality lab has been conducting research for eight years, providing important studies on the grain that benefits the entire country.

“It's important for the country in a bigger sense because a lot of places in the country don't grow barley very well. So Montana, North Dakota, and Idaho are the 3 main states that grow barley,” says Sherman.

In the last three years, more barley has been planted in Montana than in any other state, last year totaling around 1.2 million acres. But the barley breeding program does not stop with simply growing barley.

“So these are our malting units. The malting process takes advantage of barley's natural want to germinate. And that allows us to unlock the starches that are central to that grain and use that for the brewing process,” says Hannah Uhlmann, the director of the barley malt and brewing quality lab. She showed me the malting units, which is the next step in the brewing process.

“We found that through the level of hands-on we were able to be with the malting process, it really improves our knowledge and the need of the industry. So we felt it was really important we extend that to brewing,” says Uhlmann.

On Feb. 28, Montana State’s academic brewing license was approved. Prior to this license, the barley breeding research ended with quality testing malt. Bruce McMahon, a research assistant, says this brewing license is the final piece of the puzzle to get the most accurate research on barley.

“I think this will be really good for us. Having a new variety of barley isn't any good if it doesn't malt well or it doesn't brew well. So being able to malt and brew will give us the opportunity to see the barley through the whole process so we know it works for everyone down the line,” says McMahon.

And if you were curious as to what this new hands-on brewing station looks like? Bruce showed me.

“This is a five-gallon brew house. Once it goes through the mash tank, we go to a kettle where it is boiled, hops are added. Then it’s cooled. And then it's put into these fermenters. And yeast is pitched into the fermenter. And that's where it ferments. And we get beer."