How beer supports college research and generates excitement

Colleges and universities are licensing lagers and ales to raise the profile of athletics and academics

Brewing Boiler Gold and Boiler Black is about more than just beer for Purdue University.

Sure, in 2017, the Indiana institution licensed its name to a local brewery (run by a Purdue graduate) to create new beers to sell at sporting events and in stores as far away as Chicago.

But what’s most important is that Purdue now funds a new fermentation science minor and associated food research with its portion of the revenues, says Rob Wynkoop, managing director of the university’s procurement services.

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“It’s not just to have a cool beer for people to buy at football and basketball games,” Wynkoop says. “It’s telling a good story about how good science can create good academic opportunities.”

Fermentation researchers in Purdue’s Department of Food Science study concepts such as how to grow good hops in Indiana.

But students who learn these and other chemistry skills can use them in industries other than brewing, Wynkoop says.

The Boiler beers are bestsellers for the brewery, People’s Brewing Co. “It’s not a huge revenue generator for us, but it’s a good one,” Wynkoop says. “We also branded the beer as a showcase product for our 150th anniversary that speaks to the research and the education that’s done here.”

Who else brews beers?


Capitalizing on a good time

The debut of Colonels Retreat Lager coincided with a sudden turnaround in the success of Nicholls State University’s sports teams.

The beer, which was first served at the Louisiana school’s first home football game on October 5, sold out of stores within 1 ½ weeks, says Jerad David, Nicholls State’s director of marketing and communications.

“Our athletic teams are doing exceptionally well, and we’ve had a recent surge in support from the community,” David says. “People are coming out to tailgate prior to football and other sporting events, so why not give them the opportunity to show pride for the university in yet another way?”

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Nicholls State gets licensing royalties from the beer and the distributor also pays money back into the school’s alumni scholarship fund.

Before its release, a group of the school’s business marketing students ran a market analysis that indicated Colonels Retreat would likely be a hit with consumers. Then, graphic design students created the packaging.

A nearly complete collection of the beers now being licensed by colleges and universities. (Photo: Mario Moccia)
A nearly complete collection of the beers now being licensed by colleges and universities. (Photo: Mario Moccia)

The success of the beer has got David and other school officials thinking about releasing a line of consumable products. Along with adding a second craft beer, possible items include a wine, Cajun seasoning, and honey made on the university’s farm.

“Here in south Louisiana, people like to have a good time,” David says. “So we figured that if they were going to have a good time and drink beer, why not capitalize on that.”

Liquid good luck

When administrators at New Mexico State University agreed the school should license a beer, they turned over the nonfermentation part of the project to a marketing class.

The school’s athletic teams are called the Aggies, but Colorado State University had also chosen that name for its beer. Students named New Mexico State’s beer Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale, after the university’s mascot and the year the school was founded.

The debut of New Mexico State University's Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale coincided with some big wins for the school's football and basketball teams.
The debut of New Mexico State University’s Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale coincided with some big wins for the school’s football and basketball teams.

Another student, who now works full time in the school’s marketing department, designed the can.

Since its 2017 release, the beer has become a university good luck charm, says Mario Moccia, the director of athletics.

“In football, we went to our first bowl game in 57 years and won, and we also won 28 and then 30 basketball games the next two years,” Moccia says.

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Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale is brewed by a pair of New Mexico State graduates at Bosque Brewing Co., which happens to be across the street from campus. The beer generates about $50,000 per year in revenues for the university.

New Mexico State is now looking to tie the project into its food science programs and internships, Moccia says.

And to help alumni and other consumers find Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale, the athletic department has added a search function to its website.

“Even if Pistol Pete is a bit of a niche product, that’s what folks want to have because it goes hand in hand with supporting the athletic programs,” Moccia says.

But where can I buy it?

At The University of New Orleans, officials licensed Privateer Ale this year as a nontraditional way of raising the school’s visibility.

The university worked with Second Line Brewing to develop a beer that would appeal to a broad base of beer drinkers and also quench their thirst on hot days in New Orleans, says Adam Norris, the chief communication officer.

Administrators at The University of New Orleans expect a big boost in pride, rather than revenues, from Privateer Ale.
Administrators at The University of New Orleans expect a big boost in pride, rather than revenues, from Privateer Ale.

But administrators do not expect a financial windfall from beer sales, even though 47,000 of the university’s alumni live in the city.

“It’s really more about boosting pride and school spirit among alumni and supporters,” Norris says. “When we released it, we received requests on social media from alumni across the country, asking how they could get their hands on a Privateer Ale. That’s been fun to see.”

Matt Zalaznick is senior writer. 

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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