UW-Madison works with brewing company on wild lager

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin brewing company and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working together to create the first wild lager brewed in North America, according to a company official.

Wisconsin Brewing Co. President Carl Nolen told The Wisconsin State Journal that the project with the university uses a Wisconsin yeast strain never used before in commercial beer production.

The weeks-long brewing process began Oct. 11. Students assisted Wisconsin Brewing Co. brewmaster Kirby Nelson with creating the wort, a sugar-rich liquid that's extracted from barley. Students then added the Sheboygan yeast strain into the wort.

"We'll let the beer tell us when it's done," Nelson said.

The entire process will involve multiple batches and a lot of trial-and-error, said Ryan Scheffler, a university senior studying microbiology. He's one of six students enrolled in a one-credit independent study for the project.

The university has long had an on-campus brewery for food science and microbiology students to study the fermentation process. The university and the brewing company began working together in 2015 to bring student recipes to market.

Caroline Mille, another student on the project, said the hands-on work illustrates the real-life application of her lab skills.

"Lab work is really specific," she said. "A project like this, you're able to zoom out and see the industrial application to your research clearly."

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which is the university's patent and licensing branch, owns the rights to the Sheboygan strain, according to Jennifer Gottwald, the foundation's senior licensing manager. The university entered into a research agreement with Wisconsin Brewing. If the beer is commercially sold, the two groups will negotiate again, she said.

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