Back to School

Alltech Prepares for 23rd Year of 'Alcohol School' in Lexington, Kentucky, and Dublin, Ireland.
By Jessica Williams | September 01, 2003
In Lexington, Ky., registration has begun, the curriculum is set, instructors are scheduled and the textbooks are ready. School is about to commence, but this isn't your traditional educational environment. It's the Alltech Alcohol School, and the doors are about to open on its 23rd year.

The U.S. session in Lexington takes place Nov. 2-7. Two weeks later, the third European session in Dublin, Ireland, kicks off Nov. 16-19. Although an average of 180 people have attended before, Alltech is hoping to see closer to 300 attend this year. The information one could learn from this school is abundant and invaluable.

"This started as a general course on alcohol production," Alltech's alcohol division director Jim Bannerman told EPM. "There's no formal place where you can go to learn it. You can go learn how to brew, but not distill. So Alltech started the school to give the distilling industry a forum that offers education and knowledge of the process in a formal learning environment."

Over 2,100 Graduates
In the past 22 years, more than 2,100 people have graduated from the Alcohol School, including laboratory chemists, production managers, process managers and marketing personnel.

The Alcohol School is also renowned overseas. People from nine different countries attended the second annual European Alcohol School in 2002. The first alcohol school in Vietnam hosted 67 participants from 11 distilleries, four breweries, two institutes and one trading company.

To stay on top of new technology, the Alcohol School has gone through several changes since it first opened its doors in 1980. For example, Bannerman said the classes at Alltech's Alcohol School used to be strictly lecture by academics. However, in the last few years, the curriculum was altered to include hands-on laboratory experience in Alltech's newly built alcohol-teaching lab. The school has also evolved so that it contains more detailed class topics. Before, students attended classes that covered general subjects interesting to everyone. As the years progressed, Alltech branched into more technical advanced sessions on issues such as yeast management, advanced distillation and beverage production while maintaining lectures on basic aspects of the process.

"The purpose of [more advanced sessions] is that over the years, people have been to the school a number of times," Bannerman told EPM. "We want to offer something to people with a great deal of experience in the industry as well as those who have just started their careers. It's a lot more work, but we think it's worth it."

The Alcohol Textbook
Another unique thing the Alcohol School offers is its textbook, aptly titled "The Alcohol Textbook." According to Bannerman, this type of publication is the only one in the world.

"Alltech personnel offer technical services across Europe, Asia and Latin America," Bannerman said. "The Alcohol Textbook is the one book everyone refers to. We sold right out of the last edition."

Alltech's president and founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons, published the first textbook in 1981. It was called "A Step Toward Energy Independence," and it launched Lyons and his school to national recognition. The book was rewritten into a second edition, which was called "The Alcohol Textbook." A third edition was printed in 1999. The fourth edition has been compiled, published and is ready to be handed out at this year's school session.

Learn & Network
A typical day at school consists of general lectures in the morning. A number of subjects will be covered on all processes. More specific detailed lectures will take place in the afternoons, and students can choose which classes to attend throughout the week. The evenings are reserved for social events, such as a welcome dinner on Sunday night and a barbeque.

"[Social events] are part of an effort to facilitate friendships and industry contacts that we think are critical," Bannerman said. "We learn as much from contacts as we do from the lectures. And you always learn more when you're having fun."

Overall, Bannerman said participants would get two things from attending the Alcohol School. One is the opportunity to consult with experts in different areas, whether it be yeasts, distillation or other topics. Secondly, the school provides a place to stimulate thought, interest and discussion among peers in the industry inside and outside of the classroom. The Alcohol School assigns group projects to encourage participants to work together to solve problems.

"One of the things Dr. Lyons noticed when he first started the School was there were few people with experience and industry know-how," Bannerman told EPM. "Now that the industry has grown, people have 20 years of experience. That's why we've evolved and grown to keep up and ahead of the natural technical progress of industry." EP