The Center for Hospitality and Sport Management opened a special topic course this fall called “Fundamentals of Beer,” which covers the cultural aspects of beer and the process of beer making.
During the 10 weeks, students get to explore the history of beer, the beer and beverage industry, beer critiques as well as the symbolic role of beer in the society through myriad topics.
The class also offers hands-on experience for students to learn to brew, bottle and taste their own beer in one of the University’s test kitchens. Students and faculty meet on the sixth floor of the Paul Peck Problem Solving and Research Building, utilizing the bar and lounge area of the Academic Bistro.
Besides the classroom setting, students can have the opportunity to participate in some beer tasting events and visit local breweries and pubs — such as Yards Brewing Co., Earth Bread + Brewery, Nodding Head Brewery, and City Tap House — to acquire real-world understanding of beer crafting systems.
Another feature of the course is the final project, in which students will present individual research. All research will then be compiled into a take-home book.
“Fundamentals of Beer” was initiated by Lynn Hoffman, an adjunct professor in the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.
“This is a history course, an anthropology course, a culinary course and a hands-on brewing course. It’s a discourse in the humanities and it’s a tour of Philadelphia,” Hoffman wrote in an email. “Our purpose was to create a civilized conversation about refined pleasures among cultivated friends. That the conversation concerns a seemingly ordinary product that much of the world underappreciates only contributes to the deliciousness of the whole thing.”
According to him, Philadelphia is probably the best place in the world to explore the world of beer due to the city’s wide variety of available beer selection.
He is also the founder of the culinary arts major at Drexel plus an author of six books and several hundred articles on food and drink. One of his books, called “Short Course in Beer: An Introduction to Tasting and Talking about the World’s Most Civilized Beverage,” is used as the main textbook for the course.
Hoffman shared that years ago he wrote “Short Course in Beer” to inform hospitality students about the complicated world of making and selling beer. As he was doing so, he started to realize the cultural aspects of beer, how it contributes to the agriculture, how beer production was the first industrialized area in the Middle Ages, and how it influences our society. Thus, he started this course, aiming to educate students about vocational beer making and about looking at beer from a historical perspective.
According to Hoffman, this course is beneficial not only for students who study hospitality but also for students who are not specialized in the area. He said beer is the fastest growing beverage segment in the U.S. Knowing about it is important for hospitality students to broaden their understanding.
“Although we seem to have forgotten it, beer is worth our attention because it can be delightful, but it’s also worth a moment’s thought because it’s been important in the daily lives of many people and cultures for centuries,” Hoffman wrote.Hoffman continued, “Pleasure is a vitamin for the spirit. In spite of what some mean-spirited people say, pleasure is a good thing. We have majors at Drexel’s hospitality and culinary arts [programs] that are devoted to pleasure. Many pleasures are expensive: beer is not. A properly educated palate can enjoy some of the best beer in the world for a fraction of the cost of passable wine.
“So beer is a chance for everyone to experience a sublimely crafted food: how could you not be passionate about that?”
Classes take place every Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. A lab fee of $125 is required for Drexel students and $495 for non-students — both of which must be over 21. The fee covers beer tastings, brewing materials, and the costs of field trips. The course is also open for public enrollment.