A massive picture of a glass of beer projects on the screen at the front of the lecture hall as students jot notes about hops and barley. The mood in the University of King’s College classroom is light, but Brewing Civilization is no bird course.
“In one way it’s a totally simple concept: take beer, the places in which it was brewed and drunk, and follow that through history to see how the story of science and technology is woven into the story of brewing and vice versa,” says Ian Stewart, an assistant professor in the History of Science and Technology Programme who teaches the class this year.
One example of the relationship between brewing and science is the thermometer. The instrument was invented in the 16th century, but not standardized to have a dedicated scale until much later. “Because temperature is so important to precise brewing, it became standard,” says Stewart. “Then it in turn become subject to more precise study, which eventually leads to advances in chemistry.”
Each week students will discuss the history of brewing science in a heavily academic way. But some classes will end with a guest speaker, and a little extra fun injected. Two of those guest speakers are Stephen Crane, manager of the Burnside Noble Grape brew supply store, and brewer Jonathan Primack. In 2014 they started a brewing collective dedicated to reviving historical beers.