Beer enthusiasts looking for craft-brewed flavor now have a place to go on campus.
The brewery at Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Training, Technology and Incubation in Innovation Village started making beer in mid-December, and in January began serving up offerings such as Butterfield Blonde, Rubottom’s Red, Palomares Porter, Bronco Brown, and Ortiz’s Orange Witbier, named for the recently retired President Emeritus Michael Ortiz.
In fact, all of the beers brewed at Innovation Brew Works will tell stories about historical figures and places in the Pomona Valley.
The endeavor, started and run by the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation Inc., is a university affair, with much of the grain, as well as some hops and oranges, used for brewing grown on campus. The foundation plans to host a pre-Homecoming grand opening celebration for Innovation Brew Works on Friday, Feb. 20, from 4 to 8 p.m. that will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, photo booth, live music, giveaways, and a raffle. Two new beers will be unveiled at the free event, including one called Green & Gold.
Aaron Neilson, the foundation’s director of dining services, says the initial concept for a brewery on campus came from Paul Storey, the foundation’s executive director.
“He came to me and said, ‘I want to build a brewery,’ ” Neilson says.
The idea was to not only increase traffic to Innovation Village, but also offer research opportunities and hands-on classes to students hoping to learn the art of brewing, he said.
Innovation Brew Works has a 3½-barrel system, which enables brewing of just over 100 gallons at a time. The site’s four smaller 10-gallon systems enable experimentation with differing brewing styles, and will allow students to learn beer-making techniques on a smaller scale. Besides the five house varieties, the establishment serves a few seasonal beers, plus several beers from local off-campus breweries.
The board approved the proposal in September 2013, and plans for Innovation Brew Works began to form.
The Innovation Village site previously housed a Peet’s Coffee and a convenience store. The space behind it had been a graduate school bookstore.
Beyond beer-making, Innovation Brew Works includes an eatery that serves artisan pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
Neilson says he got the idea for what to serve at the café during a visit to Pieology, where customers pick their pizza toppings in assembly-line fashion. He needed a food that could be prepared without a ventilation system, he says.
“It was that Subway concept, made fresh right in front of the customer. That is why it is so popular,” he says.
The food component makes Innovation Brew Works a rare find, Neilson says, adding that he believes it is the only educational brewery that also has a café on a college or university campus.
While mapping breweries in a 25-mile radius, Neilson says they found 57. Most of them did not offer food, but some called in food trucks to serve customers.
Beer aficionados on campus also will be able to sample the offerings at The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch, the Farm Store, Kellogg West and Round Table Pizza, which also plans to sell the beer.
During the first week of operation, assistant brewer Richard Thompson peered into a large kettle of water-soaked grain. He checked readings on fermentation and prepared oranges to be zested.
Thompson compared brewing beer to cooking.
“There’s a process like cooking a steak, the right temperature, flipping it at the right time,” he says. “You can’t rush it. Getting into the brew too quick won’t do it justice.”
Thompson studied brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, but says the program was a very small operation that was heavy on classroom theory.
The number of programs that offer hands-on experience with brewing are limited, he says.
“This is going to be a great thing for Cal Poly Pomona,” he says. “It’s going to be very sought after.”
Michael Godfrey, associate dean of the Collins College of Hospitality Management, says the university already offers beer and culture, beers of the world, and beers, wines and spirits classes for students 21 and over. Those classes focus on consumer appreciation, he says.
In addition to those courses, Cal Poly Pomona recently offered a Saturday beer appreciation class to the community through the College of the Extended University. That class is set to return in April, Godfrey says.
Other potential continuing education courses under consideration are a class on running a brew pub or managing a microbrewery, a series on hands-on craft brewing, and certification study workshops to become a cicerone, which is similar to a sommelier for wine.
A workshop for certified beer-judge preparation and a home-brewing course also are being considered, he says.
The Collins College may offer internships and test a special topics course in the fall, he added.
President Jimmy Carter signed a law to allow home brewing in the 1970s, and beer making has been gaining interest since then, he says.
“What we’ve seen in the last five or 10 years has been amazing,” he says. “In the last five or 10 years, the number of brewers in the Inland Empire has tripled.”
Koby Harris, Innovation Brew Works’ head brewer, says it was the beer and culture class he took at Cal Poly Pomona that got him interested in brewing.
“I fell in love with exploring beer styles,” says the 2012 graduate.
The liberal studies major says when he heard about plans to open a brewery on campus, he asked about a job, thinking he might work in the café.
Harris received his training at Ritual Brewing Co. in Redlands. The brew master there, Owen Williams, was his beer and culture class instructor. Williams also helped with the initial planning for Innovation Brew Works.
Training under Williams “broadened his horizons,” said Harris, adding that he thinks it will do the same for other students who take the classes.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said of the brewery. “Crafting it into the educational field is absolutely brilliant. There is so much behind brewing. Cal Poly Pomona having a brew class is great.”
Due to limited space, pre-registration for the grand opening tours of Brew Works is suggested. Visit the Brew Works Facebook page for more information and pre-registration or to buy beer tickets in advance.