Ellen Brisch, an MSUM biology professor, has always said beer and fermentation led to civilization.
Beer has a prominent place in history, with evidence of the brew dating back to the days of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
“Just a tiny bit of alcohol will kill bacteria or at least keep it at bay,” Brisch said.
But as beer has evolved over the ages, it has moved away from being a necessity of survival to being a finely tuned craft.
Brisch’s love for history, science, teaching and beer have come together once again. She’s teaching a a home-brewing course for Fargo-Moorhead’s Communiversity.
The course, titled A-Beer-C’s, offers an introduction to home brewing, discussion of beer styles, and a sampling of many of them at Bridgeview Liquors/Atomic Coffee in south Moorhead. The second of the two session class is on Saturday.
Brisch loves talking about beer and will often incorporate the subject into her classes and labs. Last summer, she proposed the idea of having a home-brewing class, and it was a success. Brisch was asked to instruct the class again for the F-M Communiversity.
Brisch’s love for beer began when she was young and living with her family in Germany.
“My dad really reinforced quality not quantity, enjoying the nice stuff with family and the people you care about,” she said.
But, after moving back to the states, quality beer was difficult to find.
The summer after graduating high school, Brisch discovered a book on how to brew beer and became enthralled with the subject as she read the book cover-to-cover.
“There was no craft-beer or micro-brew beer, so I was thinking, well, I’m just going to have to learn how to make it,” Brisch said.
It wasn’t until Brisch studied biology in college that she began to learn how science and the brewing process overlapped.
After college, she spent five years in Massachusettes where she met kindred spirits who shared her love for beer. They soon began to brew their own.
“It wasn’t great at first, mostly because we really didn’t know what we were doing,” Brisch said. “The information wasn’t as detailed as it is now. There wasn’t a ton of information, so a lot of it was trial and error.”
Mike Bartholomay-Berreth, a student in the course, was attracted by curiosity. Growing tired of going out and ordering the same beer or drink because of familiarity, he has found himself “wanting to branch out.”
“It’s kind of nice to have someone explain a little bit about it so you feel like you have some knowledge before you jump right in,” Batholomay-Berreth said.
His interest in home-brewing is developing in a time when information and supplies are plentiful.
“How people figured the brewing process out, which is so technical and so scientific, without any equipment, is fascinating to me,” said Brisch. “I always loved reading about it, studying about it, talking about it, blending it in and framing it as history and science. I love it when history and science collide.”
Although Brisch doesn’t brew much anymore due to a lack of time, her love and appreciation for it remains present.
To learn more about the courses offered by the F-M Communiversity, call 218.299.3438 or visit their website, fmcommuniversity.org.
BY ZACHARY KOPPANG