Siena drink program extends alcohol consumption after keg parties

For many, drinking in college meant keg parties, Long Island iced teas, and cheap pitchers of beer with friends at the local bar. For some students at Siena College in Loudonville, drinking in college means oak-paneled lounges and fine liquors to be enjoyed while stretching their research muscles.

The new Siena College Beverage Institute, founded this spring by a group of faculty and staff, grew out of bi-weekly Zoom meetings within the group to have drinks together, explore new minds, and discuss various work and research projects. that each one undertook. during the COVID-19 pandemic. The community and friendliness that was offered in these virtual meetings, while having the opportunity to share their work and gather ideas on how to solve problems and gather new ideas, has been so beneficial to them. participants that some of the group asked themselves: benefit our students from Siena?

“I lived for (the Zoom meetings) during COVID. It was the highlight of my second week, ”said Krysta Dennis, creative arts producer at Siena College and one of the founders of the Beverage Institute. She teamed up with Daniel Moriarty, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to create the backbone of the program and figure out how to make it work with student participation. As part of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Moriarty put forward the idea that students not only come together to form a community around local drinks, but also combine research projects specific to the local community of production of beverages as a whole to acquire experiential education.

“At its root, (the Siena College Beverage Institute) is a research project. It could be water testing for a local producer, it could be designing a label for a brand, ”Moriarty said. The duo included in the program Jodi O’Donnell, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Siena, as well as Father Tito Serrano, member of the convent of Siena. (“We call him our Spiritual Advisor,” Dennis said.) To complement the research and project management opportunities that students in the program could explore, Dennis pointed out to Michael Lounello, from the technology and video production department. of Siena, to join the Institute and expand its potential.

“It all happened so naturally, it’s scary,” said Lounello of the Institute’s formation. The first cohort of students was launched this summer, with each student finding a project in their field of study to relate to a need in the local beverage production market. As a group, the Institute worked with the Capital Craft Beverage Trail Passport Program to ensure marketing and content development. Other services offered by students include business planning and financial analysis, chemical analysis, and regulatory assistance. Unlike other beverage-focused college programs, the goal of Siena College Beverage Institute is to serve more of a collaborative consultancy rather than a pool of interns, providing students with hands-on experience related to their majors that can be applied to resumes and job searches. -graduation.

“One of the very appealing aspects of the program is that it is producer-centric. Students have specific items that they can perform on, ”said John Curtin, founder of Albany Distilling Co. and member of the beverage circuit. “It’s unique in that it addresses the larger picture of the craft beverage industry, not just production,” he added. Although the Institute is only a few months old, Curtin and other producers (seven companies, to date) have benefited from the work of the Institute’s students.

Finding solutions in their projects with peers and teachers often happens during a wine, cider, beer and spirits tasting. “The greatest ‘aha’ moments happen over a drink,” said Lounello, and he found this to be true among Institute students and with his colleagues. The program received favorable recognition from the school, and community leaders, notable alumni, school deans and Siena President Chris Gibson all came to participate in the tasting and discussions. .

“We teach students to drink less and better. They learn this valuable skill on how to conduct themselves in a professional setting, ”said Moriarty. “I don’t know if that was our goal when we started, but it absolutely is now,” he added.
Moriarty also said that the American university environment lacks the pub culture that is present in European and Asian universities, where lessons and classroom conversations extend into the bar room.

Dennis, a certified sommelier, said the program “creates well-rounded students” who develop good life skills and critical thinking skills, but also increase their appreciation for the finer things in life, like a good glass of wine. . “We have fantastic noses in this house,” said Dennis. “The culture that develops here is important and nothing makes me happier than hearing students from the other room talk about the exciting wines they are going to drink. “

Siena College Beverage Institute is located in Serra Manor, a stately brick house that was previously only used for a few upstairs offices. The expansive kitchen and elegant library (affectionately known as the “Whiskey Room”) lend the cultured atmosphere the Institute nurtures among students. In the basement, a pre-existing wine cellar serves as proof of the Institute’s membership in Serra Manor. Moriarty said students in the program frequently crowded into the whiskey room to talk about their studies and share tasting notes around a new bottle of liquor. These conversations continue through field trips to local beverage producers or to campus projects attached to the Institute, such as a mead-making project with Serrano in the college chapel.

While alcohol is the unifying theme of the Siena Beverage Institute, “it’s not the Siena College Drinking Club,” Lounello said. Use craft drinks as a way for students to express ideas and gain an internship that can translate into their potential future in the job market. (Lounello said that this experience helps Siena graduates to create “jobs that don’t yet exist.”)


“It’s like everything we’ve done here, there should have been a roadblock, but there wasn’t,” Lounello said. Just as a glass of silky sherry glides effortlessly down the esophagus, the Siena Beverage Institute is pleasant, contemplative, and welcomed by many.


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