Friday, 29 June 2018

cheers, BEERx!

It’s been a while since a did a MOOC. But I just couldn’t resist doing The Science of Beer, a five-week course from the Wageningen University & Research. The best thing about this course, in my view, is that it was developed not by the academic staff but by the students of WUR. Apart from the videos and quizzes, there are optional “fun assignments” every week. Regretfully, I didn’t do any of them. (Why oh why?) My special regrets go to the first and probably most fun of the Fun Assignments, viz. Home Brewing, complete with this sweet disclaimer:

It is important to realise that this assignment involves the creation of an alcoholic beverage. It is possible for anyone to participate in this assignment, but please be aware that drinking or brewing an alcoholic beverage may be subject to laws and regulations in your country and can be hazardous. We cannot be held responsible for any consequences related to this assignment in any situation or circumstance. By continuing with this assignment, you agree to do so responsibly at your own risk.
No MOOC is perfect and this one is no exception. It being a student project, however, ensures that wabi-sabiness is practically built in. Whether or not a rerun of BEERx is planned, I highly recommend you checking it out. Currently the course is archived but the materials remain available to everybody.

Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of this course, the students will be able to:

  • identify the steps involved in the supply chain of beer and describe the scientific disciplines involved;
  • explain the effect of each step in beer production on the final product;
  • identify the main beer styles and explain how the production process can be designed to achieve their differences;
  • describe the characteristics and cultivation of the main raw materials of beer;
  • name the main historical events related to beer and explain how the image of beer changed in time;
  • explain how marketers try to influence consumer behaviour;
  • describe the pathway of beer through the human body after consumption;
  • discuss their own opinion on responsible drinking by looking at the health effects related to beer consumption.

Course structure

  • Module 1: Production - Processing and Categories
      This module covers three production topics: processing steps, process design and beer styles. During the processing, malt is produced, enzymes become active, chemical reactions take place, yeasts produce alcohol and flavour compounds, proteins are needed for foaming, and much more. Fun Assignment: Home Brewing.
  • Module 2: Production – Quality and Logistics
      This module focusses on the quality aspects involved in beer brewing. Also, it sheds light on the final steps of the production process: packaging and distribution. Fun Assignment: Beer Tasting.
  • Module 3: Raw materials of beer and cultivation practices
      This module goes back to the basics of beer. The students get a broader picture of the main ingredients and have a look at their characteristics and cultivation; discuss what defines a sustainable production, learn where beer comes from and explore important events in its history. Fun Assignment: Brewmasters through time (card game).
  • Module 4: Marketing of beer and cultural effects
      How are beers marketed? The students learn the essential activities in the process of bringing a beer onto the market. They also explore the world of advertising and discover the image of beer and how it changed over time. Fun Assignment: Advertisement.
  • Module 5: Consumption of beer and health effects
      The students follow the pathway that beer takes after it is consumed. They form their own opinion on responsible drinking, by comparing both positive and negative effects on the human health. Fun Assignment: Awareness.
  • Module 6: Recap and Exam
      This final module wraps up the course with a final exam.