26-year-old Ben Stone is helping the brewery with the finer points of its microbiology.
VCU today spotlighted a unique collaboration with Ardent Craft Ales in Scott’s Addition, featuring 26-year-old biology major Ben Stone, who’s helping the brewery master the microbiology of its beers.
On a recent afternoon in a back room at Ardent Craft Ales, Virginia Commonwealth University senior biology major Ben Stone peered through a microscope to examine a slide of yeast cells.
“I’m counting the number of yeast cells, comparing the number of live cells to the number of dead ones,” said Stone, 26, who is interning this semester at the brewery in Scott’s Addition.
Stone’s internship is part of a new collaboration between Ardent Craft Ales and VCU’s Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences.
As part of the partnership, biology faculty members Alaina Campbell and Fernando Tenjo, Ph.D., helped select Stone as the brewery’s intern. In that position, Stone will help the brewers set up a small lab and establish quality control procedures to ensure consistency, and he will perform a variety of other tasks such as verifying that their cleaning and sanitation procedure is working properly, creating a cell count protocol and starting a yeast viability program.
“The experience has been great,” Stone said. “Up to this point, my beer knowledge was limited to how to drink it. Learning how the brewing process has progressed from open vats fermenting to now, where every step is tightly controlled, is fascinating.”
The internship represents a valuable opportunity for Stone to apply his scientific knowledge and skills in a real-world setting.
“He already had a good background in microbiology and a lot of lab experience, but didn’t know much about brewing and was interested,” Campbell said. “He loves microbiology and I think the internship is a great way for him to apply his knowledge and skills to a different field than our students would typically be exposed to. I think this experience should make him more confident in his knowledge and skills but also hopefully show him that those skills can be used in a lot of different fields.”
Tom Sullivan, general manager and co-founder of Ardent Craft Ales, said Stone’s internship is helping them add scientific rigor to their brewing process.
“It’s fun to look in a microscope, but we don’t always know what we’re looking at,” he said. “We don’t have scientific backgrounds. And the laboratory work that we’re talking about implementing generally doesn’t require a huge amount of professional experience — it requires basic scientific training and mentorship.
“We saw [this internship] as a win all around,” he added. “Not only do we get the skills that we’re looking for, but students get access to a real-life scenario [of] how they might apply their discipline.”