3 Sheeps reps teach LU students intricacies of beer making
In a class about the science behind the creation of beer, you have to assume some day you’re going to be sampling some of the beverage that’s the subject of the course.
That day arrived recently as students enrolled in Beer: The Science and Story Behind Fermentation got a lesson – and a tasting – from some nearby experts on the subject, the folks from 3 Sheeps Brewery, 1837 North Ave., Sheboygan, Wis.
The class, which can count for students as a chemistry or writing credit, has students creating a hypothetical brewery and beer. Along with brewing their first beer, students explore the business of beer including creating a mission statement, brand attributes, target customers, a logo and much more.
The course culminates this May for the 14 students and their two instructors, Associate Professor of Writing Jodie Mortag and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry Jered McGivern, with a 10-day trip to Germany and Belgium to further explore the science of beer making.
To further make this a hands-on, entrepreneurial learning experience, the beer course has partnered with Lakeland’s graphic design practicum course, the capstone experience for graphic design majors. Each student in the design course is working with two students from the Beer class to create the visual identity for their beer.
“This class and assignment challenges students to think deeply about how creativity evokes customer response,” said Mortag. “They learn how to write beyond the obvious adjectives like ‘good,’ ‘balanced,’ ‘solid’ to compose prose using ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) sensory evaluation standards that informatively and emotionally captures their audience to give their beer a glance in the grocery store.”
It’s the second time Lakeland has offered the beer course, but the first time it has included writing and graphic design.
“The point of being a practitioner is learning to collaborate,” said Joe Pollock, Lakeland’s assistant professor of studio art and instructor for the graphic design practicum. “My students need to listen to what the chemistry and writing students are saying and learn how to take their ideas and their feedback.”
Tayler Otten, a junior majoring in creative writing and English, took the class because of the travel opportunity, but she was motivated to learn more about the review and journalistic side of writing. The beer can class project has involved her in brainstorming ideas and writing content and prose as she works with a peer who’s designing the logo for her mythical brewery/beer.
“This whole process has given me insight on what goes into creating a label,” Otten said. “Although I've seen labels in grocery stores, I've never thought of the collaboration and design process that went into its creation. It's truly fascinating. I won't look at beer labels the same again.”
Like Otten, Melissa Kassens, a senior majoring in creative writing, took the class because the travel opportunity, but also to earn the chemistry credit and learn through the unique content.
Kassens created a client brief that outlines her hypothetical beer company mission, the demographic she hopes to reach and the emotion she wants to portray through the label/look of the product.
“This class is not only teaching me about the in-depth process of making beer and all the chemistry that goes into it, but it is also teaching me about marketing and advertising while still using my skills as a writer to create something that would resonate with others,” Kassens said.
As they dive into their projects, the students recently heard from a pair of local experts: Nathan Miller, 3 Sheeps innovation brewing manager, and Josh Joyce, who leads 3 Sheeps’ marketing and communication efforts.
Miller, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology, works closely with 3 Sheeps founder Grant Pauly to come up with new recipes. Joyce, who has a bachelor’s degree in communication, focuses on marketing strategy include product naming, label design, social media and working with the exterior marketing agency that assists 3 Sheeps, the state’s fourth largest craft brewery.
Joyce and Miller shared the origins and marketing of four 3 Sheeps beers: 3 Sheeps Pils lager, 15-2 stout, the hazy IPA Chaos Pattern and the barrel-aged Deeply Rooted.
They detailed the process of creating each product, the naming process, creating the visuals of each label design and the marketing messages to make each product stand out on crowded shelves filled with competition.
They discussed key questions to ask when making a new beer, including cost, ingredients available and the market for the new product. They discussed the factors that impact the beer-making process, covering the basics of malt, hops, yeast and water and their roles in the process.
Students had a chance to smell three types of malt and some hops used by 3 Sheeps, and, for students who were 21 and older, there were samples of each beer.
In discussing the steps of the beer making process, they noted that creating a new recipe is often the easiest part, while the logistics behind naming, package design and marketing poses the most challenges.
“Every day is new and exciting, and every day is terrifying,” Joyce said with a smile.
Miller added, “The brewery is a business at the end of the day and it’s also a super cool job. We’re lucky to be doing what we’re doing.”
Students enjoyed the detail of the presentation, from the making of the various beers to the marketing/design of each product.
“I was surprised to learn how long the marketing team takes to decide on a name for each beer,” Otten said. “I was also surprised to learn how many people are involved in the label development process. The whole process is more time-consuming than I ever could have imagined.”
Kassens appreciated seeing the long list of names and wide array of colors considered during the branding process, as well as the beer-making process and how it doesn’t always go as planned.
“I appreciate that they were honest and candid with their process,” Kassens said. “I think it puts into perspective that even though they are mostly successful, there is always a trial-and-error process, but they don't give up. They come back together as a team to see where they can improve or how they can make something better. You were able to see their vision from beginning to end.”