SNSW's Head Brewer hopes to forge connections through fermentation projects

May 14, 2024

Patrick Heacock teaches fermentation science students to develop new recipes using industry-standard equipment in the Forbes Building's new pilot lab.

SNSW Head Brewer Patrick Heacock poses in front of a brown backdrop.

Patrick Heacock, Head Brewer in the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness.

Patrick Heacock loves to talk about brewing beer. His face lights up when he describes his favorite brews, the science of working with hops and yeast, the engineering that goes into setting up the equipment, the artistry involved in developing flavors - and most of all, beer's ability to bring people together.

"I want the beer I brew to be a catalyst for conversations," he explained. "When you have something that you enjoy in common, it can blur the lines, even between people with different ideologies. It brings you closer to each other."

The recently appointed Head Brewer for the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness (SNSW) is bringing those values to bear in his work with students studying fermentation science. Calling on his years of experience with local breweries like Ten55 and Dragoon Brewing Company, Heacock helps his students develop new recipes for fermented foods and beverages. He also trains them on best practices using industry-standard equipment in a new pilot plant in the Forbes Building.

Food and beverage fermentation is one of three emphasis areas for undergraduate students majoring in applied biotechnology, an interdisciplinary program shared by several academic units in the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences (CALES). In addition to growing that program, CALES hopes the excitement around fermentation will bolster support for rebuilding SNSW's food science degree programs.

"For many years, Nutritional Sciences had both B.S. and M.S. degree programs in food science and technology," said Kim Krumhar, one of the leaders of SNSW's fermentation program. "With our new focus on brewing and fermentation, we've started the process of rebuilding food science at the University of Arizona. A robust food science program would also help fulfill our mission as a land-grant university, training future workers and offering product development and testing support to local food growers and processors."

Hiring Heacock has already helped SNSW get a head start on building relationships with Arizona craft brewers. Heacock has been part of the Tucson brewing community for years, and his relationships there have helped him place student interns at local businesses.

"I think part of the mandate of my job is engaging with the local community," he said. "I can't think of a better way to do that than putting students in touch with the people who uphold that community and getting them in situations where they can put their passion and intellect to use, where they can get their hands dirty."

The arrangement benefits the brewing industry too, he emphasized. "Tucson is a beer scene, and the industry wants more refined employees, people with more training. Everybody I know in the industry has been really gracious about helping our students get this hands-on experience, hoping that they'll go on and succeed after they graduate, and that will help the industry too."

Beer produced by fermentation students will soon be available for sale on the UArizona campus. Stay tuned for more details about tasting events and sales!

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