On a highway to ale
Fresh off a preeminent internship, this grad makes the case for making beer her business – and business is good.
Story by Cory Phare | Photos by Alyson McClaran
Abby Lundien, like many of her fellow Americans, loves beer.
And although collectively we might not rival the Czech Republic for annual per-capita consumption of this potent potable, coast-to-coast career opportunity abounds here in a $107 billion industry.
That’s where MSU Denver came in for Lundien. The brewing operations student is part of the program’s first graduating class this Fall 2017, and on track for big things after tapping into an ultra-competitive internship last summer with MillerCoors in their Trenton, Ohio facility.
“Seeing how a brewery operates at that scale was amazing; you need to be so organized, because without that, nothing would happen,” she said. “It was initially overwhelming because of the sheer size – going from 100 barrels to 10 million is a little daunting!”
Lundien didn’t let that stop her, though. Working on several projects, she focused on the need to create savings by reducing waste – or figuring out “how to send less down the drain,” as she put it.
And her findings? A proposed savings of $750,000 for the company.
A heady sum, to be sure. It came from her exhaustive work in communication, documentation, recipe execution and safety – and skills she directly credited to her comprehensive managerial training at MSU Denver.
“Studying here has been a fantastic experience,” said Lundien. “And the amount of opportunity to connect with people who are in the program is incredible – if you don’t come out of it with some kind of contacts, you’re really not trying.”
She would know, too. From working with local Belgian specialists Bruz Beers to crafting another internship with nationally distributed titans Great Divide, the ability to apply efficiencies at each industry level was a natural fit to scale up to the rarified opportunity with the macrobrewery.
“There’s an incredible amount of precision – every Coors Light across the country has to taste exactly the same, whether you’re drinking it in Colorado or New York,” said Lundien. “Because of the volume [at a place like MillerCoors], you have to have your methods down,”
“That’s an art in and of itself, just like brewing an amazing new Quadrupel,” she added.
Over the course of nationwide interviews with other top brewing programs, more than 80 candidates were considered for a meager three internship positions with MillerCoors.
“It’s incredibly exclusive and a huge accomplishment,” said Scott Kerkmans, faculty member and director of the brewing industry operation program. “We couldn’t be more proud; it’s been a big deal not only for Abby, but our entire program.”
When it comes to the art of the brew, the University has clearly taken flight. Among only five institutions with beer undergraduate degrees recognized by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, continued growth involves two new labs in the student union: A quality control and analysis center, and a production facility that will house student-brewed beers; a packaging lab, a draft training lab and a fermentation lab for microbiology are also slated to come online once fundraising is complete.
Central to study, however, is the individual experience of the program, dedicated to mentorship, expertise and connection.
As a woman in a male-dominated field, those are key ingredients Lundien credits to building a top-tier career – in beer.
“From Ashleigh Carter at Bierstadt Lagerhaus to Denise Quinn (vice president at MillerCoors) there are amazing women at every level of the brewing industry,” she said. “We have great things to contribute, and I’ve been completely at home in the program at MSU Denver; it’s a real community here.
“The bottom line is if you love beer and want to make it your life, just go for it.”
Cheers to that, Abby.
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