Hail to Ale: A Photo Essay You Can Raise a Pint To

A pint glass filled with malt and piles of mile and pelletized hops in front of the glass on a counter top.
A pint glass filled with malt and piles of mile and pelletized hops in front of the glass on a counter top.
Understanding the science behind a beverage countless scientists and entrepreneurs have dedicated their lives to means perfecting ratios of ingredients and adding a little artistic flair and creativity.

Alumni, pints, engineering, and the quest for making the best beer. We dig into the science of fermentation with photos of brews and businesses cultivated by our alumni.

April 7 is National Beer Day. Michigan Tech has numerous alumni working in the brewing world, both near and far. Among them, nine breweries in Michigan, one each in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a brewing system control panel fabricator. And on any given Friday, you’ll find numerous faculty, staff and students (of legal drinking age) meeting to discuss projects, collaborations and celebrating successes with a pint in hand.

Business and pleasure aside, brewing has a geeky side. There’s a great deal of science behind a fine pint of pale ale.

The Science of Beer

Water, malt, hops and yeast. Combine these ingredients in countless variations and the result is beer. But there’s more to brewing than throwing ingredients in a pot and boiling it. Change seemingly minute aspects of the process—a hotter or cooler boil, hops dropped at different time intervals, a yeast strain’s specific attenuation qualities, a cool or warm ferment, the addition of adjunct ingredients like honey, fruit or flowers—and the result is entirely different. Innumerable spreadsheets are devoted to calculating ingredient percentages. Many biology majors these days find employment in brewery labs, tending to yeast, a sugar-fiend of an organism that creates carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.

At the end of the batch, better living through chemistry only goes so far. Much like cooking, brewing is also an art, and one with a history that stretches back thousands of years. But beer is also more than an art because you can drink it.


Alumni Breweries

Flat Earth Brewing Co. pint filled with beer.

Flat Earth Brewing Co.

Saint Paul, Minnesota
Dan Schmidt '71


Big Lake Brewing pint filled with beer.

Big Lake Brewing

Holland, Michigan
Travis Prueter '06
Nicholas Winsemius '06


Appleton Beer Factory pint filled with beer.

Appleton Beer Factory

Appleton, Wisconsin
Ben '08 and Mairi Fogle '09
Carl Pierce '08
Evan Zaborski '10


Tripleroot pint filled with beer.


Zeeland, Michigan
Nate and Laura Gentry '05


Keweenaw Brewing Company pint filled with beer.

Keweenaw Brewing Company

Houghton, Michigan
Dick and Stasi Gray '82


Brooks Brewery pint filled with beer.

Brooks Brewing

Shelby Township, Michigan
Ken Brooks '10
Rob Brooks '11


Ore Dock Brewing Company pint filled with beer.

Ore Dock Brewing Company

Marquette, Michigan
Wes Pernsteiner '02
Wade DePas '03


Electric Brewing Supply pint filled with beer.

Electric Brewing Supply

Chassell, Michigan
Ryan and Katie Gray '07


Tri-City Brewing Company pint filled with beer.

Tri-City Brewing Company

Bay City, Michigan
Chris Nowak '86


Schmohz Brewery pint filled with beer.

Schmohz Brewery

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Jim '87 and Laurie Schwerin '87
Luke Schwerin '16
Gabi Palmer '89
Chas Thompson '91


The Library pint filled with beer.

The Library

Houghton, Michigan
Jon Davis '59
Jim and Deb Cartwright '80s


Grand River Distillery and Brewery pint filled with beer.

Grand River Distillery and Brewery

Jackson, Michigan
John Burtka '70s


Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.