The Science of Alcohol, a free online course taking roughly three hours per week over eight weeks to complete via the Open University’s OpenLearn platform, aims to stimulate interest in chemistry and health sciences by teaching participants how their favourite alcoholic drinks are made and why they give them a hangover.
According to the course’s description, participants will be taught to describe the process of fermentation and how it is used to create different varieties of alcohol; compare brewing on micro and commercial scales and describe how a spirit, such as gin, is produced en masse; understand how alcohol affects the human body in both in the long and short term; describe how chemicals within a drink give it its taste and aroma and how the body recognises it; and discuss how modern-day scientists use cutting-edge technology to protect against counterfeiting and contamination.
Oxfordshire’s Hook Norton Brewery features heavily in the beer section of the course with a virtual tour of its five-storey Victorian Tower Brewery and an interview with managing director James Clarke, while Cotswold Distillery delves into the distillation of gin.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser, both the Cotswold Distillery, in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire; and Hook Norton Brewery, in Banbury, Oxfordshire; were among the seven breweries, wineries and distilleries recognised among VisitEngland’s top tourist attractions in 2018.
Practical application of science
“We are in our 170th year of beer and brewing and were delighted to team up with the Open University to help provide an insight into how we brew here at Hook Norton and to help educate people on the science behind the beer in their hand,” Hook Norton Brewery’s managing director James Clarke explained.
Dr Louise MacBrayne, staff tutor in Life, Health and Chemical Sciences and author of the course, added: “Hook Norton made a really valuable contribution, without their input, the course would not have turned out the way it did.
“They have made it really engaging and allowed us to show the practical application of science.
“It means course learners can see the perspective of the actual brewery and gain expert opinions and a level of expertise we simply would not have had without them.”
The course also features video elements made by Chaos Films. Producer Angela Lamont added: “We were delighted to work with the Hook Norton Brewery and Cotswolds Distillery.
“Both teams are extremely knowledgeable about their craft, have a true passion for what they do and were able to help us show the brewing and distilling process in detail.
"Hook Norton have an amazing tower brewery that really helps to understand the process, literally from top to bottom. And at Cotswolds Distillery, their blend of a modern set-up with a dedication to making great gin really helps to make the subject come alive.”
More information on the course can be found via The Open University.
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