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Brewing Degree, Lolly Lovers, Pop Endurance

by Marc S. Reisch
March 16, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 11


Credit: Shutterstock
Brewing education: Schools to raise spirits by one degree.
Photo of the innards of a microbrewery.
Credit: Shutterstock
Brewing education: Schools to raise spirits by one degree.

Every college freshman’s dream is about to come true.

Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University have teamed up to offer what they claim is the first U.S. higher education program in sustainable craft beer brewing. The Newscripts gang gets the “higher” part, but we are working on the sustainable part.

Starting in fall 2015, students accepted into the program will be able to earn a craft brewing certificate at Kalamazoo Valley. From there, they can transfer to Western Michigan for a bachelor of science degree.

And this is no degree for beer slouches: Completing the major will require 96 credit hours, including the 30-hour certificate. The rigorous science-based degree program will address big environmental issues with the very best of brewing art and science, the schools insist.

A critical component of the degree is the hands-on experience students will receive at KVCC’s teaching brewery. Internships at Michigan’s craft breweries, which contribute $1 billion per year to the state, are also part of the plan.

Aside from the high spirits students might expect from sampling their brews, the goodwill engendered by the two schools working together might help explain the sustainable part. “We’re learning how to sustainably grow an industry that is part of the overall health and sustainability of Michigan’s economy,” one faculty member says.

If beer can be sustainable, can lollipops be too? In case folks want to keep their teeth well past childhood, Zollipops, created by Alina Morse, a nine-year-old Michigan girl, and her father, Tom, a marketing expert, might just be the pops to “keep you smiling for years to come,” according to the Zollipops website.

Credit: Shutterstock
Lasting benefits: Lollies with xylitol are claimed not to rot teeth.
Photo of five different colored lollipops.
Credit: Shutterstock
Lasting benefits: Lollies with xylitol are claimed not to rot teeth.

Xylitol replaces the sucrose and fructose that normally sweeten pops in these healthful teeth-sustaining lollies. A sweet extract from the stevia plant lends a hand too, but the xylitol switcheroo makes lolly lovers salivate more than when eating a sugar-laden pop, raising mouth pH levels and reducing the likelihood of tooth decay, the dynamic duo claim.

What inspired this adventure in hard-candy reformulation? It came about, according to the Zollipops folks, because of Alina’s fateful trip to the bank with her dad. The teller offered the young lady a sucker. But mindful of her dad’s warning that sugar is bad for teeth, Alina wondered, “Why can’t we make a lollipop that is good for your teeth?”

The rest, the Zollipops makers say, “is history in the making.” The two are now selling the pops through online retailer Amazon and Whole Foods Market stores.

Now that’s an accomplishment that will put a healthy smile on Alina’s and her dad’s faces on their next trip to the bank. Maybe they will offer the inspirational teller a Zolli?

One good thing about lollipops is that they last so long. But how long do they really last? Close scientific scrutiny has provided an answer: It’s about 1,000 licks.

Researchers at New York University’s Applied Mathematics Laboratory weren’t especially looking to answer that burning question about pops. They were actually trying to figure out “how flowing fluids generate unique shapes through erosion or dissolution,” says Leif Ristroph, an NYU professor and lead author of an article in the Journal of Fluid Dynamics (2015, DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2014.718).

In all seriousness, researchers wanted to find a way to mathematically calculate how solid compounds such as drugs dissolve in the body or how swirling waters erode and form landscapes. But then they couldn’t resist the temptation to answer that burning childhood question. Now you know.

Marc Reisch wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to


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