Why is a Nova Scotia university trying to get a brewing licence?

While beer and university life have long gone hand in hand, the love of suds is taking on new meaning at Dalhousie University.

Dalhousie University is also buying $50,000 of beer-making equipment

Prof. Andrew MacIntosh, a member of the Canadian Institute of Fermentation Technology at Dalhousie University, works in his lab at the Halifax school. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)
While beer and university life have long gone hand in hand, the love of suds is taking on new meaning at Dalhousie University.

The Halifax school is in the process of getting a brewing licence and purchasing $50,000 of beer-making equipment.

The equipment is for a research institute housed at the school whose focus includes working with fermented beverages such as those found in the brewing, distilling and wine industries.

Andrew MacIntosh, a professor at the school who also works at the Canadian Institute of Fermentation Technology, said new beer-making equipment is needed because the facility has outgrown its existing gear.

The university already offers brewing science courses through its engineering department.

A brewing licence is needed because the plan is to take libations created in a course, student project or collaboration with industry and serve them on campus, said MacIntosh, who teaches in Dalhousie's department of process engineering and applied science. 

Andrew MacIntosh said the brewing project could help promote responsible drinking amongst students on campus. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press file photo)

"We want to connect more with industry but also create better connections with our students," he said.

MacIntosh, an avid home brewer, said the initiative could have other benefits.

"We see this as an opportunity to combat some of the negative aspects of drinking on campus and try to promote a culture of responsible drinking, and understanding the product that people are producing locally ... that they can be quite proud of."

MacIntosh said the school is not looking to become another microbrewery option for craft-beer loving Nova Scotians — an industry that has swelled in recent years.

He said the 200-litre brewing system being purchased is only a fraction of the size of what one would find at a small brew pub.

How to make a better brew

Supported by public and private funding, the institute offers scientific analysis of products using gear that a small business could likely not afford. The institute also provides help with improving methods of making wine, beer and spirits.

"We have problems that we know we need to fix, but we don't know how to fix them. They (the institute) actually know how to fix them," said Riley Giffen, owner of Coldstream Clear Distillery, a Stewiacke-based distillery that makes rum, vodka and liqueurs.

"They can get to the bottom of what's causing any issues we might be having."

Last year, the distillery worked with the institute to develop a better method for measuring the alcohol content of Coldstream products and the project was a success.

Giffen said the company is working with the institute on another project, but said he couldn't elaborate because of competitive details.

The institute also worked with another Nova Scotia company to perfect the FizzWizz, a device that automates and perfects the carbonation process when bottling beer.

From seafood to suds

The institute's focus has changed in recent years. 

The facility is an offshoot of the Canadian Fisheries Institute of Technology, a 30-year-old endeavour that continues to support the seafood and nutritional supplements industries, but MacIntosh said that research is winding down.

As a result, researchers turned their eye toward finding an industry that had a lot of growth potential in the province, and decided the booze business was a good option. Other research will focus on things like probiotics and nutritional supplements.

MacIntosh, an engineer by trade who did his PhD thesis about carbonation, said he never thought his day job would end up where it has.

"I am ecstatic this opportunity has presented itself," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press