St. Louis on the Air
3:11 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Celebrating (And Teaching) Beer In St. Louis

Credit Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Forget the stereotypes of beer-swilling men and frat boys. Femme Ferment and The University of Missouri–St. Louis want to introduce women and students to the art of brewing.

Fourth-year PhD chemistry student and homebrewer Joseph Meisel will lead UMSL’s new beer brewing class, Chemistry 1021 Beer Brewing: Chemical and Biochemical Principles.

“There’s a lot of people who are really intimidated by science. This course is really for those type of people,” Meisel said. “It’s using beer brewing, which a lot of people are familiar with, at least on the consumption part, but using that for a way to teach science.”

Meisel said students will exit the course with a better understanding of chemistry, biology and physics, plus beer brewing skills.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get their feet wet in the science side of beer,” said Kristin Chalfant of Femme Ferment. “There’s a lot of science behind it; it’s not only a creative process.”

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get their feet wet in the science side of beer,” said Kristin Chalfant of Femme Ferment. “There’s a lot of science behind it; it’s not only a creative process.”

Meisel said 11 students have signed up for the course so far. Students do not have to be 21 to take the course; they do have to be 21 to consume alcohol.

Meisel said students often are intimidated by science courses.

“I think if we can use something that they're interested in to get the science out with a more contextual basis, then it’ll be a lot easier for them to absorb that information,” Meisel said.

"There are a lot of similarities that can be drawn between women in brewing and women in science," he said.

That’s where Femme Ferment hopes to gain a foothold in St. Louis.

“Beer is portrayed as something the guys drink,” Chalfant said. But a quarter of all beer consumed, is consumed by women, she said. “We have a stereotype where the women walk into the bar, they want something light, they want something low in calories, they don’t want a double IPA, they don’t want something full of flavor, which is, a lot of times, false.”

Femme Ferment works to highlight the roles of women in St. Louis’ craft brewing industry. In addition to sponsoring monthly happy hours, the group is working on collaborations with local breweries.

“The craft beer industry as a whole is exploding all over the country,” Chalfant said. “All of the new breweries that are opening have something different to offer. There’s a niche for every type of brewery that’s opening.”

A report from the Brewers Association found more than 3,000 American breweries in June. The report says confirming 19th century numbers is difficult, but the authors of the report believe this is the first time the U.S. has had more than 3,000 breweries since the 1870s.

St. Louis Craft Beer Week starts Saturday; several events and tastings are planned.  

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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