A visit to Oregon State University’s fermentation science pilot plant will engage all of your senses. You’ll confront an array stainless steel tanks, a chorus of exhaust fans and the scent of baking bread blended with steaming clouds from boiling brewer’s wort. It’s no surprise that Jeb Hollobaugh vividly recalls his first visit as a high school freshman on an FFA outing.
And given Hollobaugh’s interests, it’s not surprising to find him nine years later graduating with a degree in Food Science and Technology from that same program.
“I knew I wanted to do something in science, and I love food and cooking anyway, so that was a big moment for me,” Hollobaugh says of his first visit. “Fermentation Science combined everything I love: it’s an art and a science.”
The Right Fit
The pilot plant and brewery in OSU’s Wiegand Hall would become a second home for Hollabaugh, where he’s spent four years studying, conducting research and working as brewmaster for the Food and Fermentation Science Club.
Guided toward food and agriculture early on, Hollabaugh grew up on a hobby farm in St. Paul, Oregon, where he has fond memories of his mom cooking and his dad barbecuing. St. Paul is surrounded by hop fields and some of the Willamette Valley’s most famous wineries. Involvement with the FFA program, which has its headquarters on the OSU campus, further cemented his degree trajectory. “After high school I took a year off to be a state officer for the FFA. I traveled around the state doing leadership camps and workshops so I got really involved in ag education.”
Where the foodies are
That involvement led Hollabaugh to OSU’s College of Agricultural Science and fermentation science courses, where you’ll find the foodies on campus. “We definitely all love food,” Hollobaugh says of his classmates, who often bring their research projects home to their own kitchens. “It’s a good place to be for a potluck, that’s for sure. We all like to apply what we’ve learned in class.”
Now his research experience will be taking him in new directions. After presenting findings at the World Brewing Congress in Portland this summer, a rare honor for an undergraduate student, he’ll be heading to Gallo of Sonoma to work in their wine research lab for six months. After that, his choices are wide open. He’s been gathering emails with job opportunities for some time: “I started collecting them all into one folder when I was a sophomore and now there are over four hundred.”
Hollabaugh suspects that testing the horizons in the wine and beer industries may take him to England or New Zealand after his internship in California. But he also feels that the road will eventually bring him back to Oregon: “I know at some point I want to end up back in the Northwest. It’s like nowhere else.”
A culture of craft brewing at Oregon State
This innovative spirit is what helps keep the Pacific Northwest on the leading edge of the craft beer movement. OSU students regularly intern at industry leaders like Deschutes Brewery in Bend and Bridgeport Brewing Company in Portland, and alumni helm many iconic area breweries.
Students also conduct research for industry partners in the pilot plant, another benefit of hands-on learning environment. “They trust us as undergrads to brew, analyze and package these beers that get sent out around the world,” says Hollabaugh. “When we get compliments on that, it feels pretty cool to have been a part of it.”
The hallmark citrus character that defines many craft beers comes from the hops chosen by brewers who want to distinguish their product from the cheap lager beers of past decades. From the Cascade Hop, first developed in Corvallis, to new varieties that push the flavor boundaries, OSU helps pave the way for new beers. “There are always new varieties we’re testing,” says Hollabaugh, who, along with his lab mates, has even had the chance to propose a name for one of these new varieties.
-Story by David Baker