CORVALLIS - Because of a Portland businessman, Oregon State University is going to get its own beer-making equipment and what may be the country's first endowed professorship in fermentation science.
"Our industry is one of the fastest growing in the country," said Jim Bernau, president of the Nor'Wester Brewing Company of Portland, which produces ales and beers sold throughout the United States. "We're expanding at the rate of about 40 percent a year and we're in desperate need of talent and research support."
Bernau is giving OSU stock in his company worth about $500,000. Sale of the stock, and money from a state matching program, will support a $1 million "Nor'Wester Professorship in Fermentation Science" in OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology, according to Betty Brose, executive director of the university's E.R. Jackman Foundation.
In addition, Nor'Wester Brewing Company has loaned OSU a brew house - a pilot micro brewery made up of several tanks and other pieces of equipment. Under a formal agreement, the brew house will be deeded to the university after 15 years. It will be installed in OSU's Weigand Hall, home of the food science and technology department.
OSU food science professor Mark Daeschel noted that Portland has more micro breweries than any city in the world, and said that beer-making and wine-making are excellent examples of adding value to raw agricultural commodities grown in the state.
Daeschel said his department is setting up a committee to identify a faculty member to receive the endowed professorship and that the gifts from Nor'Wester will help the department reach several goals.
"We're going to offer an undergraduate degree in food science with an option in fermentation science," he said. "That will make our graduates competitive for a position with the brewing or wine-making industries.
"And we're going to step up our research and extension work that supports those industries," he added. "We're already working in the key areas, from agricultural chemistry to sensory evaluation to the microbiology of making beer and wine."
Daeschel said other universities with programs in fermentation science include the University of California at Davis and Cornell University. "But I haven't heard of another endowed professorship in fermentation science," he said.
The brew house at Oregon State will be used to teach OSU students - and Oregonians taking Extension Service workshops - about beer production.
"Also, Oregon companies will be able to pay a fee and use the equipment in product development," said Daeschel, who conducts research through OSU's Agricultural Experiment Station. "Nor'Wester will have access to the brew house 25 days a year at no charge."
OSU already has a pilot plant for wine-making research, he noted.
Bernau was student body president at the University of Oregon in 1975-76. Asked why he donated stock to OSU, he said "Supporting OSU will be good for the entire industry, and the food science department has already helped us a lot. They helped us develop our own yeast, and our chemist is an OSU food science graduate. Most of the hop varieties we use were developed at OSU.
"This will be good for other Oregon industries, too," he added. "Oregon has the wheat, barley, hops and high-quality water you need to make fine hand-crafted beers. Oregon has led the nation's renaissance in hand-crafted beers. It's only right that OSU be the leader in teaching and research in this area."
Bernau also is chair of the board of the Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore.
OSU will hold a dedication ceremony for its new pilot brew house Friday, Feb. 2, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the pilot plant on the first floor of Weigand Hall. The ceremony will include a "hops cutting" with a pair of giant scissors, a "christening" of the pilot brewery with the striking of a bottle of beer, and a demonstration of how the pilot brewery works.