A group of Lakeland students recently spent 10 days in Germany and Belgium studying the science of fermentation and biotechnology.
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Jered McGivern led the trip, which included students Gabbie Barefield, Lauren Bruggink, Adrienne Guarnieri, Ryan Hoey and Mitchel Larsen. The course was open to any Lakeland student and helped fulfill a general education requirement.
The group spent time in Munich and Bamberg in Germany and Bruges, Ypres and Brussels in Belgium.
The goal of the course was to look at all aspects of fermentation, and included visits to several breweries, including some of the world's oldest. The trip included visiting a malting company to learn about science of malts, and visiting a hop farm in Belgium to learn how hops are grown with different flavors and how that changes the taste of beer.
"We learned the difference between German and Belgian beers, and the science behind how and why and the differences in their processes," said McGivern, noting there were just a few styles of beer found in most German establishments and hundreds of types and kinds in Belgium.
The group visited a Trappist brewery in Westvleteren run by monks and sampled some of the rarest beers in the world, which are only available at the brewery.
The course evolved from McGivern's love for travel and finding interesting ways to approach the study of science.
"I was having a beer with a neighbor and we started talking about styles of beer, and that led to the idea of a class focused on beer styles and the chemistry behind how they're made," McGivern said. "There is such a huge difference between beers in Germany and Belgium. It's fascinating to see how the beer culture in Brussels has been influenced by all these other cultures and to see that history."
While beer and fermentation was the focus, the students also explored other portions of the vast history of the areas they visited. Highlights included a trip to Ypres, where some the first chemical warfare was used in World War I, and the students chose to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp from World War II.
"Beer was a central theme, but there are so many other things students got out of it," McGivern said.