In 1956, the Lucky Lager Brewing Company wrote to Dr. Emil Mrak, then Chair of the Department of Food Technology at UC Davis, regarding the need for technically trained personnel for the brewing industry. In this letter, Ruben Schneider, the president of Lucky Lager, outlined the positions within a brewery that graduates would be qualified for if trained on campus. The letter instigated the development of the brewing program at UC Davis.
The university did not have the equipment or funds necessary, so Lucky Lager and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas donated a brewhouse and funds to start a brewing program to complement the existing wine program.
Starting in 1958, the University of California, Davis (until 1959 the College of Agriculture at Davis) began offering brewing technology courses - the first of their kind in the United States. Dr. Herman Phaff was the first to teach these brewing courses, soon followed by Dr. Tommy Nakayama, who is pictured at the top of this page with the original brewery equipment. (Read the 1959 article "Brewing Technology" by Dr. Emil Mrak, reprinted in the 1995 MBAA TQ, for a look at UC Davis Brewing's founding innovations.)
The original pilot brewery was located in Cruess Hall, home to what would become the Department of Food Science and Technology. The pilot brewery gave students the opportunity to fully understand the complex chemistry, biochemistry and engineering required to produce beer while getting hands-on experience
In 1964, Dr. Michael Lewis became the next appointed brewing professor. He designed the initial brewing science courses FST 102 (Malting and Brewing Science) and FST 102L (Practical Malting and Brewing), which morphed into the foundation courses of the brewing program that are taught to this day. Professor Lewis co-authored (with Dr. Tom Young) a well-known basic brewing textbook and his contributions to brewing education and the industry, alongside other early champions of the craft brewing industry were recognized as part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian.
Upon Lewis' retirement, Dr. Charles Bamforth was appointed in 1999 after an international search. Charlie became the first Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences after Doug Muhleman (a UC Davis brewing program alum) recognized the need for an endowment to allow the transition to a world leading program of teaching and research in brewing.
Through Professor Bamforth’s love of brewing and beer, the teaching program led to numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students entering both large and small brewing companies. Bamforth has written many books - several of which are currently used in teaching the brewing courses. Professor Bamforth also added a hugely popular general education brewing course (FST3) which was extended into one of the first large scale on-line classes offered by the campus (FST3V). The upper division brewing classes greatly increased their enrollments.
In addition, Professor Bamforth recognized the urgent need to update the pilot brewery and the research laboratory, and the facilities were greatly enhanced through the generosity of several companies and individuals, notably the Anheuser Busch Foundation and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
A new brewery was installed in Cruess Hall, and in 2010 this was relocated to the new August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, within the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science complex. It became the world's first LEED Platinum brewery. These facilities were further enhanced by the donation by Doug and Juli Muhleman of four small-scale brewhouses and by Carlos Alvarez (Gambrinus) of an extensive range of new brewing and packaging equipment, including state-of-the-art small scale fermenters and small-scale malting equipment.
The research program, greatly extended by Bamforth, also benefitted from the installation of modern equipment within the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Research Laboratory. This generosity of Ken Grossman and Katir Gonser, from the family-owned Chico-based brewing company, extended to the establishment of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Endowed Brewer position, with Joe Williams as the first incumbent.
Professor Bamforth retired from the program in December 2018, but remains involved in teaching through UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education, including through the development of a series of on-line courses.
In 2019, Dr. Glen Fox was appointed as the new Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences after another global search. Professor Fox is a keen educator and has an outstanding research profile. It is anticipated that through his leadership there will be a greater extension of the research program into raw materials, notably malting barley.