My name is Briana Chamberlain, and I am a senior at CSU studying chemical and biological engineering. For the past year, I have been co-oping with New Belgium Brewing Company. The 100% employee-owned brewery is not only the maker of delicious beers such as Snapshot and Blue Paddle (two of my personal favorites), but they are also a Certified B Corporation because they believe business can be a force for good. From my first day on the job, I could see New Belgium’s commitment to our community, employees, and environment was at the forefront of all operations.
For my co-op, I helped with a massive re-control project of the brewery in which we replaced our old control system with a new control system. This project gave us the opportunity to standardize all of our documentation and processes while making major efficiency updates. I helped primarily with the design and development of our supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) screens which are the graphical user interfaces that the brewers see and interact with to run the brewery. Learning how much detail and coordination goes into the control of even just one valve or motor or flow transmitter has been eye opening. My favorite aspect of this project was the collaboration that occurs between teams such as brewing, electrical, maintenance, and programming.
In addition, I have done some programming of the programmable logic controller (PLC). The PLC is what contains all of the code that actually runs every automated device in the brewery. As a chemical engineering student, I learn about processes most often in an ideal state. When commissioning the yeast area back in July, I had the opportunity to troubleshoot first hand and learn about the reality of working in a real environment vs. simulated environment. From valves not opening enough, to faulty transmitters, all these problems are for the team to solve and often must be resolved in a time crunch. During a big commissioning, the whole brewery is still operating so we have to meet normal production needs while still implementing our new control system in the area of focus. If something goes wrong, that can mean a huge loss of product. Our product here is beer, and no one ever wants to waste beer!
“My supervisors and co-workers didn’t just teach me about engineering or how to make beer, they taught me how to live a full life and what it means to be truly invested in your work, day in and day out.”
On top of all the engineering lessons, this past year I learned a lot of life lessons, too. A strong work/life balance is extremely important to New Belgium, as was evident from talking to any co-worker. I have never met a group of people more hard working and down to earth. From Thursday night volleyball to enjoying a shift beer after a long day, my favorite part of this co-op experience was the people surrounding me. My supervisors and co-workers didn’t just teach me about engineering or how to make beer, they taught me how to live a full life and what it means to be truly invested in your work, day in and day out.
I will deeply miss getting to come to the brewery every day and work hard for a company I believe in and trust. Fortunately, they won’t be far. I’m also extremely excited to visit next year right on campus at the New Belgium Porch in the new CSU Rams football stadium! This partnership is just one of the many examples of a company always putting their values first and knowing the importance of giving back. I could not be more proud to have worked for New Belgium and will take this experience with me for the rest of my life. Go Rams, and cheers!
For her Senior Design project, Briana used the skills learned during her co-op experience to help design an on-campus teaching brewery for the Fermentation Science and Technology program. Read more.