USM chemistry students have a tricked-out craft beer laboratory
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By Ashley May

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(USA TODAY/Ashley May) Ahead of Monday classes, Lucille Benedict will make sure her chemistry class is stocked with safety glasses, beakers and, plenty of craft beer.

Benedict, associate professor at the University of Southern Maine, teaches two chemistry classes on beer and runs a lab testing beer for 10 breweries and two hop yards.

For undergraduates taking the classes, there's plenty of beer to go around to experiment on, not to drink. (Of course, there are field trips to breweries and Benedict said those 21-and-older can stay after and taste.)

"We are definitely science-focused," Benedict said.

Students test beer for color, alcohol content, bitterness and contamination using technology most breweries can't afford. And, this is an important service to breweries, including Allagash Brewing Co. and Rising Tide, who previously shipped brews to the West Coast for testing. The school charges for the services, but costs run much lower than commercial operations and students are often able to turn results in a day, Benedict said.

The university's Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Research lab was first opened to students in March with a hefty grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund.

"I started out going for a $40,000 grant and was lucky enough to get half a million instead," Benedict said.

While chemistry classes on brewing aren't rare, Benedict said she doesn't know of another university that offers a working lab like theirs.

The operation isn't just educating students. Students in the program are also educating brewers. Representatives from five breweries are taking classes at the lab this year, learning "how to create a quality control lab at their brewery" from undergraduates, Benedict said.

Read the original story at www.USATODAY.com.