Report from last Friday’s Inaugural Red beer celebration event

Campus Craft brewery group
The Inaugural Red team gathered for a photo at the May 1 celebration event.

The weather cooperated for last Friday’s celebration of Inaugural Red lager at the Memorial Union Terrace. The event, which ran from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., brought together partners from across campus and beyond—UW students, CALS faculty, staff and friends, and staff from the Wisconsin Brewing Company (WBC)—involved in the process of selecting, developing and producing a UW student-designed beer at the WBC facility.

Celebration attendees were the first to sample the new beer, which went on sale at the Memorial Union Terrace that afternoon. In addition to tasting the beer, project participants shared some words about their experiences during the project and about the educational value of the UW-WBC partnership.

“It is really about getting students from different disciplines to integrate what they’ve learned and to work in teams to produce something that’s commercially viable, something that gets them to interface with customers,” said Jim Steele, a professor of food science, at the event. “I think that experience of getting out into the marketplace and being a professional has to be part of the education process here at CALS.”

While all students involved in the Campus Craft Brewery (as the WBC has dubbed the project) took part in the large-scale production of the beer at WBC, three students can claim the recipe as their own. Andrew Lefeber, Sean Hinds and Elizabeth “Paige” Wolff came up with the recipe during a lab course offered through the Department of Food Science’s Fermented Foods and Beverages Program over the spring semester. Their formula took top prize during a competition held in early March, and their lager was then produced by all students in the course, working side-by-side with WBC staff.

“One of the coolest things about the class is that you get to learn the scientific side of brewing, and as a science major, that’s really important to me,” said Sean Hinds. “It was also really cool to see the process of scaling up our beer from a half-barrel system to an industrial scale. It’s one thing to take a tour of a brewery like WBC, but it’s another thing to actually work hands-on to produce your beer in a setting like that.”

pitcher and glasses - Terrace tableThe general consensus at the terrace on Friday was that the beer was tasty and clean, with an impressive red color. Kirby Nelson, WBC brewmaster, said during the celebration that he’d wished the first beer he formulated had tasted as good as Inaugural Red.

David Ryder, vice president of brewing and research at MillerCoors, agreed, adding, “I think it’s a great beer, a very clean beer. And if you look at the color, it is a fabulous red. The fact that the students have done this is commendable. Hats off to everyone who’s been involved.”

The beer will be on sale at the Memorial Union Terrace all summer and possibly beyond, and WBC plans to bottle it for local distribution. Next time you’re enjoying an evening on the lake, grab an Inaugural Red and enjoy the results of this exciting collaboration.