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MSU Profiles

Schmidt is brewmaster, PhD

When he's not teaching his students about chemical compounds in the classroom, you can often find Bryan Schmidt at the local brewery crafting his newest frothy creation.

This professor of biochemistry got his first taste for fine brew when he was a high school exchange student in Germany.

"It was my first exposure to the beer world," said Schmidt who was 16-years old at the time. (Germany's drinking age is 16.) "It was a normal part of life there."

As a graduate student at Michigan State University, Schmidt maintained his appreciation for beer but was unable to afford it on a poor student's budget. Schmidt quickly came up with a solution to his predicament - a brew-your-own-beer kit.

"My first batch wasn't anything spectacular, but it wasn't bad." said Schmidt. "One thing led to another and before you know it I had multiple gallons of multiple different things going at the same time."

Schmidt's roommates joined in the brewing efforts, which bolstered production.

"Two of us were brewing two to three times a week. We had an abundance of beer for everybody who came over," said Schmidt. "The grad students loved coming over to our house."  

In Australia, Schmidt completed his post doctorate work while continuing his hobby of brewing. Australia's restrictions on ingredients used in brewing posed a new challenge for Schmidt.

"When you get restricted on what ingredients you can use, you pay more attention to what the ingredients are doing so you can find better substitutes," he said.  

Returning to the United States, Schmidt landed a job with Minot State University. His knowledge as a science professor overlaps with his mastery of brewing.

"It's the same process of growing bacteria or yeast in the biochem lab. That's where the two came together for me, working in science while making beer on the side," said Schmidt.  

Schmidt's travels and exposure to a diverse variety of beers have influenced his approach to brewing - try everything that's out there. This approach has been instrumental in Schmidt's success as a brewer.

"In the brewing world today, people are looking for something that's new and unique."

After years of spending his summers brewing on his back porch, Schmidt decided to put his skills to work for an actual brewery. Schmidt's opportunity came with the offer to be brewmaster for Souris River Brewery in Minot.

"Brewing while working at Minot State really tests one's planning skills," said Schmidt who spends a lot of time driving back and forth from the college to the brewery.

Schmidt's grad school years of balancing class with brewing at home proved to be good training for his busy schedule today.

The act of brewing in its simplest form requires the boiling of water, the implementation of grains, and draining the water into a vessel to ferment. Schmidt, who designs all the recipes for Souris River Brewery, admittedly spends most of his time boiling water and cleaning vats. It's the final product that gets him excited.  

"I like making beers that people aren't familiar with. Some of them are hard to get when you're not in a huge city," he said. "Getting people to try something different and watching the surprise on their face when it's not what they expected. That's the fun part."