By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4)– The brewing program at Metro State University graduated its largest class on Friday, but the legacy for this group of students might be with winning national awards.

“All of it is stemming from the work we do on campus, with students making their own beer on campus, in our beautiful facility and we want to go out and compete. We make great beers and we want everyone to know that,” said Dr. Helene Ver Eecke, who teaches biology classes, but helped form the brewing program a few years ago.

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(credit: CBS)

MSU Denver won third place overall in this year’s U.S. Open College Beer Championship in its first time in the competition. A Milky Way Stout won first place in the stout division.

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“That beer was something else,” said Connor Cottrill, who graduated Summa Cum Laude on Friday in Brewery Operations.

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(credit: CBS)

“I wanted to make good beer right off the bat. I saw too many brewpubs open up with poor quality beer,” Cottrill said about picking this degree at MSU Denver. “I wanted to be certain that I was going to be success and this kind of really sealed the deal for me.”

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On Friday, Cottrill graduated Suma Cum Laude in Brewery Operations.

“It’s not as easy as people think. That’s for sure. It takes a lot of dedication and effort,” said Cottrill.

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CBS4’s Jeff Todd interviews Connor Cottrill (credit: CBS)

“A brewer who also knows science,” said Dr. Ver Eecke, who taught Cottrill in both biology and fermentation. “He’s a very high GPA strong student that I had in micro biology which is in the biology department with a bunch of science nerds and he crushed it.”

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Dr. Helene Ver Eecke (credit: CBS)

Cottrill wasn’t just part of the award winning stout team, he recently got personal awards for beer he’s made at home.

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“I entered a sour strawberry cream ale into the NHC, the national homebrew competition, and I got a gold medal,” Cottrill said.

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He credits the awards to the education he’s received. And it’s likely to be just the beginning of success for both Cottrill and the MSU Denver program.

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“We’ve worked to create alumni that are incredible marketable,” Dr. Ver Eecke said. “Some are really good at designing recipes. Some are really good at quality assurance, quality control to make sure the beer is good. Some are really good at sensory analysis and they can sip a beer and find all these notes. And there are so many careers in the brewing sciences that we’re training various different types of people.”

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

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