Rau entered CSU as an animal science major on the pre-vet route, but ended up as a biochemistry major and was encouraged to take a brewing class.
Taught by Jack Avens under the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the class –– Brewing Science and Technology, or FTEC 460 –– showed Rau and many other students about the brewing process.
“The process is one biochemical pathway,” he said.
On the second day of class, Rau recalls thinking, “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
During the class, students are able to take field trips to seven breweries around Fort Collins and apply what they’ve learned in class at Equinox, Odells, and Funkwerks breweries during the semester.
The course started in 2005 and is offered every semester to 20 qualified students, who must be 21 or older, have a background in organic chemistry and fill out a three to five page questionnaire created by the professor.
According to Avens, CSU is the only university with an undergraduate academic brewing science course. This puts students on track to a career in brewing.
After the class, the next step is to obtain an internship at a local craft brewery.
“An unpaid intern is on track when the need (for workers) arises,” said Doug Odell, founder of Odells brewery.
The semester after taking FTEC 460, Rau signed on to be the undergraduate teaching assistant for the class. During that time, he also held a part-time internship at Odells brewery. After nine months, Rau got offered a full-time position as a lab technician.
Rau’s main job is quality control and quality assurance, according to Odell. Rau is one of two lab technicians hired on to oversee the brewing process.
Rau’s job entails checking for bacteria and contaminants in the yeast. He also looks at plates and makes media for different brews, while tasting a variety of brews in the process.
“I have a hand in every aspect,” Rau said.
Alongside Rau are technicians and production staff and “(everyone) is on the same page, which makes the process smooth,” Rau said.
There is camaraderie among brewers at Odells and other breweries around town, who share their passion and also tend to share customers, Rau said.
As the founder, Odells main job is to promote the brewery outside its walls, he said. Odells began in 1989, and now produces around 16 to 17 beers a year.
That doesn’t include the 40 to 50 beers per year that they produce on their small brew system, solely used as samples on tours and to put on tap at the headquarters.
Odells is a contributor to the beer culture around Fort Collins. According to Odell, “craft brewing grows each year anywhere from 10 to 12 percent.” Odells Brewery closely mirrors this statistic, since it grew 15 percent in the past year.
“Fort Collins is the Napa Valley of beer,” Rau said.
Breweries are both profitable and have a “laid back atmosphere,” Rau said. Beer culture continues to grow, with Odells beginning to renovate their facilities and three new breweries opening up in Fort Collins in the next month.
Student Life Beat Reporter Amanda Zetah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.