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Climbing the Ivory Tower

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Mar. 20 | Modified: Mar. 24
Climbing the Ivory Tower

Ivory Tower's All Nighter Oatmeal Coffee Stout can now be found in area barrooms and stores.

Photo submitted

A couple of new brews, infused with local talent and ingredients, are about to hit coolers and taps in select locations across North Carolina.

Boone’s Ivory Tower Inc., a nonprofit brewer led by two faculty members in Appalachian State University’s fermentation sciences program, is entering into the emerging brewery market in the High Country with two distinct craft selections.

Howard Brewing Company of Lenoir will brew the brewery’s first publicly available beer.

The brewery’s inaugural beers, the All-Nighter Oatmeal Coffee Stout and Sumac Cum Laude, are produced with some local ingredients, including beans from Bald Guy Brew in Boone.

Dr. Brett Taubman, an associate professor of chemistry who works in the fermentation sciences program, said while there is an element of student involvement in the brewery, it is a completely separate entity from the university. Taubman is joined by the fermentation program’s chair, Seth Cohen.

The Ivory Tower connection helps to fund research and education in fermentation sciences within and outside of the university, he said.

By entering a contract with Howard Brewing Company, Ivory Tower donated a 15-barrel fermenter to the Lenoir plant. All the proceeds of the beer sales will go to the not-for-profit, and the brewing company earns the exposure and publicity of brewing the beer.

Although students in the fermentation program are not required to participate at the Lenoir brewery for the not-for-profit, Taubman said it does not take much coaxing to get them to come on down.
“They are learning a lot about the (brewing) process and what goes into the recipe making, selling, packaging and distribution side,” Taubman said.

This gives prospective graduates a “business side feel” of the industry in addition to the in-the-lab experience they learn at the university’s pilot facility at the Broyhill on campus.

The university’s test facility has already manufactured a number of student perfected brews, which are not for sale to the public due to legal requirements, Taubman said. The test facility remains a separate entity from the faculty-inspired and student-involved Ivory Tower entity.

While still in its infancy, the fermentation sciences program has made a noticeable impact within the university and is feeding some of the nation’s leading emerging industries, he said.

“Appalachian saw the (program) as an opportunity to spur economic growth in a growing industry and regional economic development,” Taubman said. “We also had the resources available… and the interest was certainly there.”

Entering the study and research of fermenting alcohol is no cakewalk and transcends simply making beer and wine, as graduates from the program are also equipped to enter an array of relatable fields, including quality assurance, bio-fuels and even pharmaceuticals.

Prerequisites for the program include a healthy dose of science, business entrepreneurship and math courses to prepare students for the rigors of research and development.

“It’s pretty intensive,” Taubman said of the course load.

The relationship between the university and the brewery is symbiotic for research in the field and the students in the program.

“A lot of students who are doing research are supported through funds through Ivory Tower,” Taubman said.

The two new brews will be available in local grocers, bars and Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants. Select locations across the state will also carry the beer once it hits shelves this spring.

For more information on Ivory Tower Brewery, visit

Eat Beat

Got food news? Contact editor Frank Ruggiero at ( or (828) 264-6397, ext. 244.

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