Originally published in the Saint Francis University Magazine, Fall/Winter 2015.
Have you ever had bread, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, chocolate, pickles, beer or wine?
If the answer is yes, then you have tasted fermented foods and beverages. But how much do you know about the person and the process behind the flavor and texture of these types of foods and beverages?
Since the beginning of time, humans have harnessed the power of fermentation to produce alcohol as well as preserve and enhance the flavor of food. Nearly one-third of all foods consumed world-wide have been fermented. As a result, the art of fermentation is a thriving field that continues to build promising careers.
Senior Aaron Kirsch, the first student in the new Fermentation Arts program at Saint Francis University, saw the opportunities aligned with this career goal and pursued it. His success is already brewing.
As part of the Fermentation Arts degree, students can gain hands-on experience through an internship. Aaron sought out several different breweries to intern with, and after considering each brewery, he chose Draai Laag, a brewery located in Millvale, Pa., because they are “doing something special.”
Aaron explained, offering limited insight to keep the Draai Laag secret, that the craft beer maker is using brewing techniques unlike any other brewery. In fact, he stated that “probably no other brewery in America is using these techniques.” The only bit of factual information he could offer without revealing too much is the fact that Draai Laag spends 47 percent of their budget on research, whereas normal breweries only use about 10 percent. In Aaron’s words, “Draa Laag is making good beer in a scientific way rather than just going through the motions.”
So, what did all of this mean for Aaron? He was able to gain an extra-ordinary experience in his internship. Working primarily in manufacturing at the brewery, Aaron aided the head brewer. He was involved with pilot batches and experimental batches of beer fermenting and brewing. Beyond manufacturing, Aaron aided with the organization of promotional events, beer tasting events, beer events, etc. put on by Draai Laag. All of his experience fell under the scope of a “brewer,” which, Aaron pointed out, is a position that is required to wear many different hat.
Although Aaron’s internship encompassed a variety of skills, he felt confident and capable because of his education at Saint Francis. The new program, started in 2014, is a strong program, as Aaron explained. It is a growing program with great opportunities for students to get involved in unique experiences, such as having class in breweries and wineries in addition to interning.
Students are not the only ones excited about this new program. The local interest is also building. Companies are excited to involve students, such as Aaron. Draai Laag hopes to bring in additional students from Saint Francis in the future, maintaining a strong relationship with the University, and other companies have also reached out to Saint Francis about getting student interns.
Aaron’s specialized education and experiences are paying off. He has already been offered a job as assistant brewer at Draai Laag Brewing Company, which he will start the day after he graduates. Aaron is ecstatic about his opportunity, and he cannot wait to see the opportunities other students will gain as the program continues to grow.