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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

First Science Pub of Academic Year Focuses on Brewing Beer

By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University's first Science Pub of the fall semester will focus on a fitting topic: "The Science of Beer."

Dan Barshis and David Gauthier, both associate professors of biological sciences and home brewers, will talk about the evolution of brewing science. They also teach a summer course in zymology, or the science of fermentation.

The event will be at Bold Mariner Brewing Co., 2409 Bowdens Ferry Rd., Norfolk, on Aug. 29. Networking will begin at 6; the program will start at 6:30. To attend this session, RSVP by Aug. 27 at


So why beer?

"I think different types of beverages go in and out of style, and beer is definitely 'in' right now," Gauthier said. "When people realize how relatively simple it is to brew good beer - as good or better than you can buy - and that you can do it with simple equipment, that helps the hobby. There's also quite a bit of cachet in being able to say, 'I brew the beer I drink.'"

Barshis added: "In terms of the history of the hobby, there has never been so many quality ingredient options as there are right now. There is also a fun social aspect to the hobby with homebrewing clubs and beer tastings."

Gauthier began homebrewing about 22 years ago after his brother-in-law gave him a kit.

"I'm pretty sure I didn't even like beer all that much at the time, but the process of making it and seeing yeast turn one thing into another was pretty fascinating," he said. "So I stuck with it, and, as you might predict, I developed a taste for beer."

Barshis got into it nine years ago while he was doing post-doctoral work.

"California had such an explosive craft beer scene at the time, and I had dabbled in homebrewing back in college, so I decided to try and pick it up again," he said. "I really enjoy cooking, beer and tinkering, so it seemed like a perfect hobby."

Homebrewing doesn't have to be expensive, both said.

"I have brewed good beer on setups ranging from a five-gallon bucket and a pasta pot to a $6,000 small, commercially built rig," Gauthier said. "This is one of the nice things about the hobby; you can start brewing for about $150 - including ingredients for your first batch of five gallons - and work your way up from there if you like."

Barshis advises newbies to keep it simple and stick with it.

"I've heard many folks say they brewed a few times and enjoyed it but never brewed again after the disappointment of a final bad batch," he said. "Try it again before too much time passes, and go back to a solid, simple recipe."

What are the best beers they've brewed?

Gauthier: "My first beer ever - brewed with a bucket and a pasta pot - was actually pretty good. I like brewing IPAs and am still in search of the ultimate recipe."

Barshis: "I made a New England-style IPA a few months ago that I really enjoyed. I did a side-by-side taste test with a similar-styled beer from a local microbrewery that I thought was super delicious, and mine was just as good, just a little different. I've also made a couple really good Russian Imperial Stouts over the years."

Science Pubs provide an opportunity for the community to engage with ODU researchers in an informal setting.

The next Science Pub is scheduled for Sept. 18 at Rip Rap Brewing Co., 116 E. 25th St., Norfolk. Holly Gaff, the leader of ODU's tick research team, will discuss current and future threats from ticks and tick-borne diseases in Hampton Roads.

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