Bourbon is a mainstay of Kentucky culture, and this January, the spirit is the centerpiece of Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Leonard Demoranville’s CentreTerm class (pictured above, getting a lecture from Wilderness Trace Distillery master distiller Pat Heist).
CentreTerm is a January session between long semesters that gives students and faculty the opportunity to explore a single subject intensively—in this case, how to make beer, wine and bourbon.
“I’m a fairly new home brewer,” Demoranville explains. “In that process, I was reading a lot about brewing and realized how much interesting chemistry there is in the process. That spurred learning more about wine. When I was discussing possible elective classes, my interview committee suggested that since Centre is in Kentucky, I’d need to add bourbon. I couldn’t help but agree.”
Though Demoranville’s personal interests inform the class, there are other reasons the course works particularly well during the short January term.
“Professor Haile teaches a first-year course on food chemistry, with a section on fermentation,” he says. “We are working together to have the courses intersect for a couple of days.
“CentreTerm allows me to take field trips,” he continues. “It also lets me mix in some lab time with a non-lab course. I really like the flexibility in scheduling that CentreTerm allows.”
Students will visit local breweries and distilleries, including Danville’s Beer Engine and Wilderness Trace Distillery. The group will also make a trip to Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, Ky., and Lover’s Leap Winery in Lawrenceburg, Ky.
Topics covered during the three-week course include production and testing of beer, wine and bourbon, as well as the chemistry of both the fermentation and aging processes. Students will also learn the specific chemical analytical techniques used in producing these beverages. Lastly, they will explore the biochemistry of alcohol consumption.
Demoranville is especially enthusiastic about the multidisciplinary structure of the class.
“This is an upper-level chemistry elective,” he explains. “It’s going to draw off many of the major sub-disciplines that chemistry majors encounter in their studies. Pedagogically, the course is designed to bring together all of those different concepts to understand a new topic area.
“I’m hoping that students will see how some of the abstract concepts they’ve learned can be applied to a particular subject,” he adds.
Ultimately, the January term is an exciting and refreshing part of each academic year.
“I love the opportunity to study one subject in a very consuming way,” Demoranville says. “Being able to focus intently on one area without distraction is a nice change of pace and a different way to study.”
Learn more about CentreTerm.
by Mariel Smith
January 23, 2014