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CNM offers beer history course

“Happy Days Are Beer Again,” read the Powerpoint. The classroom resembled a brightly lit lounge, with its loosely spaced tables and small bar.

Steve Fye stood at the bar polishing glasses in a massive white chef’s hat.

“This is the most time consuming thing: polishing glasses, because you can’t get a good sample of beer in a glass that has any film of soap or anything like that. It just ruins the beer,” said Fye, an instructional tech for the History of Beer workshop offered by CNM as part of a series of workshops at its Brew School.

The class is taught by Brandon Morgan, head of CNM’s History Department.

Although his focus is in Latin American history and Western American history, Morgan said he was encouraged by co-workers to teach the history of beer.

“So I looked into it,” he said. “I like beer so it just kind of came together.”

Lissa Knudsen, program coordinator for CNM’s humanities and social sciences program, also works for CNM Ingenuity, a nonprofit side of CNM.

“We do non-credit classes that are open to the public. You don’t have to be enrolled since they’re not for credit,” Knudsen said.

However, the classes in this workshop series, including Saturday’s History of Beer, were built with syllabi and evaluations so that community members who become interested in studying brewing with CNM can get course credit for prior experience, she said.

Specifically, the class examined the history of beer from a Western perspective.

“The key takeaway is that the history of beer is the history of civilization,” Morgan said. “As I was preparing, I realized that I’m just giving a crash course in Western civilization in a lot of ways, but looking at beer which makes it a lot more interesting I think.”

The beer choices for the class offered a variety of samples.

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“Since we just got this brand new license we have to be really super super careful,” Fye said. “I think in our classes we use cooking wines and some stuff like that, so that has to be completely separate from the service wine. We’ve got a place where we’ve got that all locked up.”

The class began with a sample of Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, as Morgan discussed Obama’s beer summit and alcohol’s long history of easing social tensions.

As the class prepared for its second tasting, a Gose, they learned that in early societies women brewed the beer, and in some instances chewing an integral part of the fermentation process.

Students learned about the course itself through work, Facebook and local media, but they all had one thing in common: an enthusiasm for the topic at hand.

“I’m always interested in learning more about beer, and now that microbreweries are really exploding here in New Mexico I think it’d be good knowledge to have,” Melanie Viramontes said.

Viramontes said she and her cousin, Sierra Ludington, decided to take the class together.

“I pretty recently turned 21 and just really getting into the brewery scene here in Albuquerque, so I thought it’d be really fun to learn about the history, get into the educational side of it,” Ludington said. “We’ve also been working on trying the breweries and so as we’re learning to taste beer. I think this is a good bit of information to have.”

Two new Albuquerque residents, Sarah Morrison and Jason Irwin, also came to the class together.

“We like brews and we like school, so we felt like that was probably a great combination,” Morrison said. Brew School offers four classes this fall and is hoping to have four additional classes in the spring, Knudsen said. The next class on lager styles is on Oct. 15.

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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