“Beer is kind of like a pet – you got to feed it, give it all the stuff it needs to do its thing and in return it grants you this magical liquid,” food science junior Ben Jabson said.
Jabson is a member of Cal Poly’s Brew Crew, a club founded on a love for beer, brewing and good banter.
The Brew Crew was established Fall 2017 by food science professor Luis Castro. Castro has a background in beer and beer flavor chemistry with his doctoral work concentrated in brewing sciences.
“When I got hired here, [Cal Poly] needed somebody with fermentation experience,” Castro said. “The craft beer industry is booming. It’s a science that’s evolving a lot and more and more people are getting into it.”
With help of the Food Science department, Castro created Brewing Science (FSN 342), a class that discusses the scientific principles of malting and brewing.
“Brewing originally started as a cute hobby for most, but now people started taking it very seriously — it’s a career now,” Castro said.
Since joining Cal Poly’s faculty, Castro has been bombarded with inquiries regarding the formation of a beer club. After gathering support from his students, Castro decided to bite the bullet and start the Brew Crew.
“I started the club last quarter, but it was super informal,” Castro said. “This quarter I saw there was interest so I wanted to start making it more formal, specifically by having a set date and a set list of beers to make each week.”
The Brew Crew meets every Friday evening, crafting a different beer each week. Each member contributes a $20 fee, covering all costs for the full duration of the quarter. Each member is required to score 100 percent on a safety training test before they can access the FSN Pilot Plant & Labs. The brewing is conducted through a process called all grain brewing.
“The process of making beer is always the same, but the variation comes from the ingredients,” crew member Jabson said.
Jabson compares the art of brewing to that of making coffee, with the same reaction taking place in both processes.
The process itself takes about five to six hours, including prep work. The Club meets at 4 p.m. and works away till the end of the night, sometimes finishing up as late as 10 p.m.
“You put a lot of work in, in one day, and then you wait a month and don’t touch it and let the yeast do its own thing,” Jabson said. “There’s something about the payoff of waiting a month to drink and enjoy [the beer] – there’s a satisfaction knowing you made it and it actually tastes really good.”
The club is open to all students, regardless of major or prior experience.
“This is not ‘beer fest 101,’ this is a science,” Castro said. “You say brewing and everyone gets really excited and people think you just sit around and get drunk, but interest lies in the brewing.”
In the near future, Castro has goals to begin a brewing program at Cal Poly.
“There is a lot of value to this club and program,” Castro said. “These [brewing] companies want you to know the basics when joining the industry.”
Castro’s passion for brewing has brought together students, piquing their interest in a field they once knew little about.
“Prior to Brew Club, I was always somewhat curious about what was in beer and the whole production process behind it,” food science senior Alex Apolinario said. “To actually be given the opportunity to make beer and drink it was just too good to pass up.”
Students interested in joining the Brew Crew must email Castro to confirm membership. After verifying age, interested members must complete the safety protocol training.
“If I can make a product that makes people happy and brings about good times for others, that’s the kind of product I want to work with,” Jabson said.