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Inside the CIA – Brewmaster Teaches Students Brewing Tricks

Inside the CIA – Brewmaster Teaches Students Brewing Tricks

Brewery at the CIA Brewmaster Hutch Kugeman with students of his Art & Science of Brewing lab class

by Tony Forder

Hutch Kugeman would seem to have a dream job. He’s in charge of the Brewery at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) where he teaches students the basics of brewing, and he brews beer for all the campus restaurants. A former teacher, he appears to be the perfect man for the job. After college graduation in Virginia, Hutch signed up for Teach for America, but although he finished his 2-year assignment in the wilds of North Carolina he decided this was not his career path. An avid homebrewer, he looked to get involved in the brewing profession and considers himself lucky to have been hired by Oregon’s award-winning, Pacific Ocean facing Pelican Pub & Brewery.

Next stop was Lake Placid, NY where he brewed for eight years (and yes, count eight long winters) at Great Adirondack Brewing Co. He then brewed at Ithaca Brewing Co. before heading downstate to Crossroads Brewing in Athens, a little south of Albany. By this time Hutch had collected his share of hardware – medals that is.

When the CIA, aided by the Brooklyn Brewery, decided to install a brewery on campus, and incorporate brewing into the curriculum, Hutch threw his hat in the ring – and he’s happy to have come out a winner.
“It’s a great environment,” said Hutch. “The students are creative, intelligent; they want to be here, they want to learn,” he said.

Since his class – Art and Science of Brewing is an elective, he gets students from all different tracks of the CIA’s diverse curriculum. While Hutch can point to a few of his students who have gone on to work in the brewing industry, he said the goal of his course is not to train brewers but to give students an in depth overview of the brewing process. Let’s face it, while more and more people are familiar with more than one style of beer, few really know how it is made.

Hands On Brewing

And it’s very hands on. Admittedly, the class in which I participated was one of the drier sessions, dealing with clamps and hoses, CIP (Cleaning In Place), keg cleaning and safety. But the students, who are broken into groups of six or so for the lab class, do get to participate in all facets of brewing on the brewhouse’s 7-bbl system. Sessions include Milling, Mashing and Lauter; Wort Boiling, Hopping, Knockout and Yeast Pitch; Filtration and Clarification Methods; Safety, Chemicals, and the CIP Process; Quality Assurance & Quality Control (Yeast cell counting and other simple lab testing); and Carbonation, Keg Cleaning and Filling. Once the students have completed the different specific topics the brewery lab becomes more of a work shift where the students pitch in with the daily tasks that go into running a production brewery.

And of course students get to taste their results (the CIA does have a special dispensation that allows underage students to taste alcoholic products for educational purposes – they are supposed to spit!). All the beer that Hutch and his students brew is poured at the campus’ half a dozen restaurants. Additionally, students get to make a class brew which is poured at graduation. They pair up to create recipes, and Hutch synthesizes the results into what he thinks will work. In December it was a Brown Ale.

Let’s Hear it for the Cleaver!

As for the specific beer styles, Hutch said, “We brew Cleaver IPA, an approachable West-Coast IPA, and Mise En Place Wit, a traditional Belgian-style Wit, year round.  They are on tap at all of our on campus restaurants.  We also brew a rotating selection of Class Project beers (chosen and designed by the students) that have included Brown Ale, Chili-Lime Gose, Belgian Tripel brewed with Crown Maple Syrup, Maibock, Oatmeal Stout, Raspberry Berliner-Weisse, and a few others.”

Other styles he’s brewed just for fun, he added, include Kolsch (Beefsteak Blonde which is featured at the annual Beefsteak banquet), a few Pilsners, Hazy IPA, DIPA, Saison with lavender and rhubarb, traditional Saison, American Wheat, Stout, Porter and a Lemon-Ginger Weisse.

Kugeman clamps down with culinary students.

Art & Science of Brewing is one of the few classes to have both lecture and lab in one class. John Fischer, who could also be called the Dean of Alcohol at the CIA, teaches the lecture part. In addition to the brewing theory, Fischer, a 1988 CIA grad, and Waldy Malouf protégé, also teaches classes in wine, sprits (mixology), and soon to be sake.

Youthful Learners

Hutch noted that as the CIA becomes more college-like and is phasing out its Associate Degree program, he is interacting more with traditional college-age students, and less with second life learners. The half a dozen I met were youthful, with the exception of a retired military officer. They were certainly geographically diverse, hailing from Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maryland, Los Angeles and Venezuela. Two of them were in the Business discipline, minoring in Wine. Others were on the Culinary Science track.

The brewery was conceived as part of the Egg, the student services building that was constructed in 2015 and is managed by the Restaurant Associates group. Nestled in one corner, the brewhouse is compact, but very functional. And with its glass windows, Hutch is in full view of the Egg’s busy traffic. How does he like the fishbowl aspect of his job?

“I enjoy it,” said Hutch. “Allowing the students and general public (we have a lot of visitors here) to see the process helps get them excited about craft beer while still understanding that similar to many of the 46 kitchens on campus it’s a production environment.  It’s a showpiece brewery but it clearly fits with the educational process and the CIA overall.”

One particular perk of the job is the almost unlimited lunch choices. While the Egg features regular cuisine like pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads, it also features rotating smorgasbords and a special class project restaurant with menus created by students. Korean chicken was the feature during my visit.
The Egg’s bar has five taps, allowing a showcase for Hutch’s creations, but also room for guest or collaboration beers. I sampled an unfiltered Steam Beer brewed with Rare Form of Troy.

Collabs in Vogue

In tune with the current craft beer environment, Hutch is a fan of collaborations. “Collabs are a great opportunity to work with fellow brewers and explore new ideas,” he said. “There are always things that we can learn from each other. In many cases it allows our students to interact with other people in the industry and learn from them as well. Also they are a lot of fun!”
On-site collabs have included Garrett Oliver and Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium Brewery, Community Beer Works, and Hudson Valley colleagues Peekskill Brewing, Indian Ladder Farm Brewery & Cidery, and Plan Bee Farm Brewery. Hutch is also a frequent collaborator off-site at various breweries up and down the Hudson Valley.

Brewing once a week allows Hutch to rotate the small groups within his class, and with a yield of about 40 sixtels (5-gallon kegs) per batch, to maintain a steady supply to the CIA’s outlets. His boss is noted restaurateur Waldy Malouf, a CIA graduate) who returned to the campus in 2014 as Director of Food and Beverage.

“Waldy is very involved with the direction of the brewery while trusting the day to day operations and creative decisions to me,” said Hutch. “You’ll begin to see our beer popping up in the Hudson Valley in select locations and as part of project-oriented collaborations in the next year and Waldy has a vital roll in facilitating that and helping the brewery to grow.”

If you want to see things for yourself, the CIA, with its beautiful Hudson River vistas in Hyde Park, NY, is always open for visitors. Also, the campus is gearing up for its 2nd Annual Brew U, a 1-day extravaganza in October which combines sampling from top breweries with delicious food from the CIA and educational seminars for beer and culinary enthusiasts.

*Little know fact – the CIA hosted the first two iterations of the Hudson Valley Beer and Food festival which became TAP New York, since hosted at Hunter Mountain for more than 20 years.