Originally created 08/20/00

Class offers in-depth beer study

It wouldn't be unusual to see courses such as art, science and history on a college student's class schedule. But the Art, Science and History of Beer?

That's the title of a class Brian Nummer teaches at the University of Georgia.

Dr. Nummer said the course was created to pique students' interest in food science and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Georgia.

"Students are not only introduced to food science in my class, they are also introduced to other aspects of agriculture, including agronomy," Dr. Nummer said. Agronomy is the science and economics of crop production.

"We look at all of the crops grown to make beer and the diseases farmers fight when growing these crops."

While agriculture is the major focus of the class, students also learn about biochemistry, microbiology, product packaging, marketing and advertising.

And with discussions of alcohol come the inevitable ethical discussions. The class probes how different religions view beer and the way advertising portrays drinking. The students debate health issues, alcohol sales on Sunday and legal drinking ages.

But don't mistake the class for an excuse to drink beer. There is no tasting, and the class does not advocate consumption of alcoholic beverages, Dr. Nummer said.

Instead, his goal is to educate. Armed with greater knowledge, students may find themselves emphasizing beer quality over quantity, he says.

"Beer, unlike wine, is better the fresher it is," he said. "If students appreciate what they are drinking, hopefully it will change the wrong cultural attitude they have about drinking."

The course, which meets for one hour a week, is open to everyone, not just food-science majors. The first day of Dr. Nummer's class this term is Monday.

The class was introduced in the fall of 1998 with an enrollment of 35. The course drew 150 students the next year, when the class size was limited only by the number of seats in the room. Enrollment is close to capacity again this semester.

"Obviously, the students are curious about the class because of the name and the fact that we discuss beer," Dr. Nummer said. "My goals for the class are to change students' and their parents' perceptions of food science and to educate students on beer so they can make their own choices."

With their new knowledge of agriculture and beer production, it's conceivable that some students may choose to pursue a career in food sciences or maybe even become the next Samuel Adams.

"I tell my students that food is the biggest business in the world and it's recession-proof," Dr. Nummer said. "After all, everybody's got to eat."

Beer history:

  • Some historians believe that Noah's provisions on the ark included beer.
  • Babylonian clay tablets from 4300 B.C. detail beer recipes. At that time, beer was sometimes used as part of workers' daily wages.
  • Egyptian texts from 1600 B.C. contain 100 medical prescriptions calling for beer.
  • If an Egyptian gentleman offered a lady a sip of his beer, they were betrothed.
  • During the 1490s, Christopher Columbus found American Indians making beer from corn and black birch sap.
  • During medieval times, beer was used for tithing, trading, payment and taxing.
  • In 1810, Munich established Oktoberfest as an official celebration.
  • In 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, which banned the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating beverages with an alcohol content of 0.5 percent or more. By 1935, only 160 breweries were left in the United States.
  • SOURCE: Professor Linda Raley, Texas Tech University

    Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or lisalohr@augustachronicle.com.

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