FoodBev 102 – “Taste”: The Culture and Science of Fermentation

FoodBev 102 “Taste”: The Culture and Science of Fermentation

The new Science and Culture of Fermentation Certificate program kicked off in the Spring 2017 semester with a team-taught gateway course that includes faculty and instructional staff from the College of Letters and Science as well as the Honors College and the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. We are hoping to be able to offer the course once a year – non-traditional students are welcome!

Bettina Arnold and Josh Driscoll (Anthropology) taught two weeks of the unit on the “Archaeology of Ancient Alcohol”. The course description and additional information is provided here in abbreviated form together with several images taken by course coordinator Barry Cameron (Geo Sci) during the experimental brewing portion of the second week. We produced a second iteration of the Keltenbräu #2 braggot that we teamed up with Lakefront Brewery to make in August 2016. Dried mint, a bit more of the meadowsweet than we used in the original version and a different yeast strain should produce a beverage that will be drinkable by the end of the semester but which will be different from the first batch. We’ll keep you posted!

Course Description:

An intercultural, interdisciplinary course that exposes students to a wide range of topics inherent in the study of fermentation culture and science, including anthropological, historical, biological, chemical, geological and cultural aspects of the process of fermentation and the many roles played by fermented foods and beverages in society.

The course is structured to provide a general overview of fermentation as a cultural and scientific phenomenon as well as how that knowledge can be applied in various employment venues, including the food and beverages industry.

Weeks 2 & 3 – Archaeology of Alcohol

Bamforth, Charles 2009 Introduction, Ch. 1 From Sumeria to San Francisco, pp. 3-49 (Weeks 2 and 6); Ch. 4 Eyes, Nose and Throat: the Quality of Beer, pp. 78-102 (Week 2). Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bostwick, William 2014 Introduction, Ch. 1 The Babylonian (Week 2), pp. 1-24 and Ch. 3 The Monk, pp. 49-83 (Week 3). The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer. New York and London: WW Norton.

Crane, Eva 1980 Ch 5 Honey in the Past and Present, pp. 103-127 (Week 3). The Book of Honey. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Katz, Sandor Elix 2013 Ch 4 Fermenting Sugars into Alcohol: Meads, Wines and Ciders, pp. 69-92 (Week 3); Ch. 9 Fermenting Beers and Other Grain-based Alcoholic Beverages, pp. 247-275 (Week 3). The Art of Fermentation. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, VT.

McGovern, Patrick 2003 Ch. 1 Stone Age Wine, pp. 1-14 (Week 2) and Ch 11 A Beverage for King Midas (Week 3), pp. 279-298. Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

McGovern, Patrick 2009 Ch. 2 Along the Banks of the Yellow River, pp. 28-59 (Week 2); Ch. 5 European Bogs, Grogs, Burials and Binges, pp. 129-158 (Week 3). Uncorking the Past. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Nelson, Max 2005 Introduction (Week 2); Ch. 2 Beer in the East and West, pp. 9-24 (Week 3); Ch. 7 Germanic Europe and the Great Beer Revival, pp. 78-116 (Weeks 2 and 6). The Barbarian’s Beverage. New York and London: Routledge.

Week 4 – Edible Memory

Jordan, Jennifer, 2011, Ch. 3, Apples, Identity and Memory in post-1989 Germany, Debating German Cultural Identity since 1989, Camden House.

Week 6 – History of Brewing in Milwaukee

Cullen, Kevin 2011 “Rediscovering Milwaukee’s historic breweries Part I: Milwaukee’s downtown breweries” Brewery History 140, pp. 71-86.

Hintz, Martin 2011 Ch. 1 The First Pour, pp. 7-9; Ch. 2 The Beer Barons, pp. 11-46. A Spirited History of Milwaukee Brews & Booze. Charleston, SC: The History Press.

Shepard, Robin 2013 “The Wisconsin Brewing Industry Since Repeal” Brewery History 153, pp. 26-47.

Smith, Fredrick 2008 Ch. 1 Introduction, pp. 1-6. The Archaeology of Alcohol and Drinking. Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Week 7 – Microbiology of Fermented Beverages

Introduction – The Microbiology of Fermentation. (C. Wimpee)

Reid, Ann and Ingerson-Mahar, Michael. 2012. If the Yeast Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy – The Microbiology of Beer.” American Academy of Microbiology, Washington, D.C.

Week 8 – Cheese and Other Fermented Foods

Fox, Jeffrey (ed.) 2014. Microbes Make the Cheese. American Academy of Microbiology, Washington, D.C.

Week 9 – Chemistry of Fermentation

McGee, H., 2004. Appendix: A Chemistry Primer, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Scribner, New York.

McGee, H., 2004. Ch. 15. The Four Basic Food Molecules, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Scribner, New York.

Joseph J. Provost, Keri L. Colabroy, Brenda S. Kelly, and Mark A.Wallert, 2016, Ch. 2. The Science of Taste and Smell, The Science of Cooking: Understanding the Biology and Chemistry Behind Food and Cooking, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey

Week 10 – Terroir

Allen, Max, 2010, Ch. 2 A sense of belonging: exploring Australia’s terroirs. The Future Makers: Australian wines for the 21st Century. Hardie Grant Books: Australia.

Bramley, R.G.V., Ouzman, J., and Boss, P.K., 2011, Variation in vine vigor, grape yield and vineyard soils and topography as indicators of variation in the chemical composition of grapes, wine and wine sensory attributes, Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 17:217-229.

Jones, Greg, 2014, Climate, Terroir and Wine: What Matters Most in Producing a Great Wine? EARTH Magazine, vol. 59 (No. 1), p. 36-43.

Applications and Operations (Weeks 12-15)

  • Week 12, Thursday, April 20, 2017: Panel Discussion with Local Business Owners
  • Week 13, Thursday, April 27, 2017: Site visit to microbrewery (Good City)
  • Week 14, Thursday, May 4, 2017: Site visit to Cheese Factory (Clockshadow)
  • Week 15, Thursday, May 11, 2017: Site visit to macrobrewery (Lakefront)

Course Objective:

To give students a basic foundation in the many ways fermentation is studied and its impact in scientific and cultural contexts.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this course will:

  1. Explain the cultural roles of fermented foods and beverages through time and space.
  2. Use archaeological and historical evidence to reveal how human experimentation led to the complex interdependence with the plants and other organisms involved in fermentation.
  3. Combine the science behind the sources of evidence for alcoholic beverages and other fermented foods to understand the role of fermentation in past societies.
  4. To provide the students with a solid background in the science of fermentation, which will allow students to identify the main biological and chemical inputs and end products of various fermentation processes and understand the influence of environmental factors.
  5. Learn how the science and culture of brewing can be applied in various employment venues, including the food and beverages industry.