Student brews beer for independent study

Sophomore biology major Drew Spacht will begin brewing beer as part of an independent study in the fall.

This project, which involves growing barley and hops on the Mercyhurst College west campus, serves as a learning experience that could potentially involve the entire campus.

 “The idea is to eventually, hopefully, sell it here on campus,” Spacht said.

Spacht first heard of the idea of brewing beer on campus when biology professor Michael Campbell, Ph.D., mentioned the idea in Spacht’s freshman interdisciplinary course. Spacht then expressed interest to Campbell during the middle of winter term this year.

Campbell is assisting Spacht in experimenting with the ingredients involved in beer making, and Campbell noted there is much to learn about brewing beer.

Despite his idea to brew beer as part of a learning experience, Campbell said he does not endorse selling beer on campus.

“The idea of selling alcohol is a whole other can of worms,” Campbell said. “We can’t just distribute alcoholic beverages on campus without having a state license.”

Campbell has not discussed the idea with college administration because they are years away from being able to sell or market a beer on the Mercyhurst campus, he said.

Despite needing to research Liquor Control Board laws before being able to sell alcohol on campus, Spacht discussed why he is interested in brewing beer and the prospect of selling it.

“Beer has pretty much always been a part of my life in a positive way,” Spacht said.

His grandfather owned Grape City Beer, and his father, who has done home brewing, refers to himself as a “beer snob.”

“I came to love and appreciate different beer types and complexities of beer,” Spacht said.

He said homemade beer tastes better than beer purchased from a distributor.

“When you actually make something, it’s really good,” Spacht said.

Gerard Tobin, Ph.D., vice president of student life, said the college would not be opposed to the marketing and distribution of any college-branded product, including alcoholic beverages.

The administration would, however, have to examine the legal and mission-related concerns involved.

“It’s not unheard of for religious organizations to have distilleries,” said Tobin, citing groups like the Abbey Beverage Co. run by Benedictine monks in New Mexico. “We would just need to closely consider, ‘Is this something in line with the college’s mission?’

“We could sell tires if we wanted to, but would that be consistent with the mission?”

Spacht’s goal of making a sustainable beer would fit in with part of the college’s mission.

“We want it to be a sustainable, organic beer, if at all possible, which so far, looks pretty good,” Spacht said.

The barley seeds are organic, and both the hops and barley will be grown organically, he said. The beer will be produced locally.

As of now, there are no name ideas for a beer produced at Mercyhurst, but the creators do have a slogan idea.

“Carpe Brewem,” Spacht said. “Seize the beer.”

KELLY LUOMA

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