It's not your traditional college classroom, but for hundreds of MSU students, this is where they'll be learning come fall, Michigan State's artisan distilling program is expanding from a few courses a year, to a full series of classes in everything from distilling spirits like vodka and whisky, to brewing beer and fermenting wine. Now, students will have the option of specializing in beverage science and technology, giving them the training to enter the industry.
"In all three phases, distilling, brewing and wine making in Michigan we're seeing a pretty significant growth. And that's what we're hearing from the people in industry is that they need people with some good, solid formal training that they want to have as employees," said Kris Berglund, MSU Distinguished Prof. of Food Science and Engineering.
Michigan State started the artisan distilling program back in 1996 and is the only program of its kind in the country. In the winter, the university opened a new facility for the courses, with commercial scale equipment. the new building also houses a tasting room that opened this month and allows the school of food science and engineering to work with students in the school of hospitality management.
"We'll have them as interns working alongside professional bartenders, and they'll understand how to run operations like this, as well as how to do a tasting... things like that," said Berglund.
The program is targeted at students like Jacob Rochte, a doctoral candidate in chemical engineering looking to gain a competitive edge and enter a lucrative sector of the food sciences market.
"It gives you the whole spectrum of the beverage industry. We make it in back, and then I get the front end on how to market it, sell it, how to make drinks, how to bartend," said Jacob Rochte, a student.
This fall, more students like Rochte will have the chance to take classes in this very unique learning lab.