Engineering a Better Beer

Alum Champions Sustainability Throughout Brewing World

s a brewing apprentice in Germany 30 years ago, Jaime Jurado ’83 couldn’t use his chemical engineering degree to get out of dirty work.

“Being a brewing apprentice is all about learning to clean,” he says, like climbing into and scrubbing fermentation vessels for inspection.

It’s not what most engineers end up doing after graduation. But a trip to a Baltimore brewery junior year with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers sparked Jurado’s interest in brewing as a career.

“I thought, I like beer, and I truly like the possibilities and the history and pride of making beer,” says Jurado, who in November became director of brewing operations for the Abita Brewing Co., based north of New Orleans.

After his 10-month stint in Bavaria, he found work in England, then Ireland, and since then, he’s traveled all over the world, going as far away as India, opening breweries and working his way up to Master Brewer status. For most of the last two decades, he was at the Texas-based Gambrinus Co., and in 2005, he served as president of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

“Making beer is no different than baking a cake,” he says. “It’s a learnable science. I don’t need someone else’s formula, but I need to know if I’m making angel food cake or cornbread. A baker has the tools to do that, and a brewmaster is pretty much the same.”

In addition to creating great new beers, he also has a passion for sustainability, which starts with better quantifying the energy and water used to make each barrel. Many small breweries merely pay lip service, he says, touting modest actions that may make little real impact on the environment. Jurado has traveled the country making presentations on best practices, and his goal is for every brewery to put a greenhouse gas statement on its beer.

At Abita, he’ll build on the company’s already-strong sustainability initiatives, as well as launch new beers that will hit stores this spring.

“It’s really exciting and we’ll be throwing all sorts of stuff out there,” he says. Can he pick a favorite? “That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child.”


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