Charlie Papazian Brewing Lab at Denvers Metro State University could attract more students to beer program

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any length of time, you’ve probably met someone who works for a craft brewery. There are more than 400 of them, after all, employing 15,000 people and pumping $2 billion in economic benefits into the state, according to a 2020 study.

Providing that industry with a trained workforce is what led to the creation of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Brewing Operations Program, and its also the impetus behind a major, $1 million expansion that the program’s director said will help attract more students.

Once it is complete, possibly by spring 2023, the Charlie Papazian Brewing Education Lab will be located on the ground floor of MSU’’s Hospitality Learning Center and include a 3.5-barrel brewing system that is similar to the kinds of equipment that graduates of the bachelor’s degree program would use in the real world, says Bernardo Alatorre, who heads the brewing school.

It will be used not just to teach them how to make beer, though, but how to operate the brewery as a whole, from ordering ingredients and cleaning and maintaining the equipment to efficiently managing the timing and workflow of brewing, fermentation and packaging beer.

“Brewing is the easy part. I hate to say it, but it’s how to make the brewery work that is harder – that is what can hinder them,” Alatorre explained. “The lab will make them not only brewers, but operators of a brewery. That’s the essence of both our program and of the lab.”

A rendering of what the beer lab at MSU would look like.

To help raise the money, MSU teamed up with Charlie Papazian, who moved to Boulder in the 1970s and is responsible for almost single-handedly creating the homebrewing culture that exists in the United States today. He is also the founder of the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewers Association, which is the Boulder-based trade organization for thousands of craft breweries across the United States; Papazian retired from the BA at the beginning of 2019.

MSU has already raised about $425,000 (of its $500,000 goal) from craft beer industry companies to put toward the cost of the lab, but in order to name it after Papazian, MSU’s rules dictate that he will need to raise the other funds on his own, Alatorre said. To do that, MSU and Papazian have created a crowdfunding campaign at givecampus.com. It officially rolled out on Tuesday.

“It’s a pretty innovative place … pretty sophisticated,” Papazian said about MSU, adding that he was surprised when he first learned that the program existed in Denver. On Tuesday, he sent messages to individual state brewers’ guilds and associations, asking them to pass along information about MSU the fundraising campaign to their member breweries.

“I hope that some might be interested [in donating] since so many have had their roots in homebrewing and understand how large the impact that beer enthusiasts and brewing education have had in their own success,” he told The Denver Post.

That shouldn’t be too much of a reach as Papazian’s name, face and books on homebrewing are immediately recognizable to brewery owners coast to coast.

As with most crowdfunding campaigns, donors get small prizes, including t-shirts, glassware and signed copies of Papazian’s “Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” depending on the level of support.

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