Sierra Nevada representative explains the three beers in a Zoom room
A Sierra Nevada representative describes the brews during the tasting.

The Chemistry Graduate Life Committee was stuck with a conundrum when the university transitioned to remote instruction last March. How can a group of chemistry graduate students recreate the liveliness and camaraderie of in-person social events during a pandemic? While the committee has continued to host well-attended DEI and community-building events, members struggled to translate their weekly ChemKeg social gathering to a virtual format — until this month.

With enthusiastic support from Dean Douglas Clark (“He only thought we should have done this sooner,” shared development staff member Rachel Moran), and funding provided by the College’s development department, chemistry graduate students reached out to Sierra Nevada brewing to organize a virtual beer tasting event. Over the course of three days in February, volunteers successfully distributed beer, non-alcoholic hop teas, and tasting journals in front of Latimer Hall to more than 150 graduate students, postdocs and faculty in the College of Chemistry.

The logistics of coordinating and transporting these supplies using COVID-safe protocols were complex. To ensure all COVID regulations were met, participants got tested and staggered distribution over a 24-hour period to fulfill social distancing requirements. To pick up beer on campus, participants signed up for a time slot and presented their ID and “all-clear” notification from UC Berkeley’s campus symptom screener app.

To kick the event off, Sierra Nevada representatives described the styles of beer, the beer-making process, and provided tasting recommendations; after which, the group divided into breakout rooms to recreate the more personal discussions that might naturally take place during an in-person tasting. A Sierra Nevada staff member then led the group on a virtual tour of the brewery.

Graduate students loved the event, according to one of the co-organizers, Tarini Hardikar. “The tasting was greatly looked forward to and allowed the department to come together and socialize without any work backdrop — no seminars, talks or expectations.”

This event also provided an opportunity for the College’s development office to express gratitude for the Chemistry Graduate Student Life Committee’s collegewide DEI efforts and to orient graduate students to the importance of philanthropy in affecting change within the college.  “It goes without saying that this year has been incredibly challenging, so the Dean’s Office was thrilled to be able to provide an innovative event to celebrate our grad students,” shared Moran.

illustration of chemistry set
Chemistry doctoral candidate Kaydren Orcutt created this art to humorously market this event.

Poem by Scott Garner
(Ph.D. Candidate, Theoretical Chemistry)

We know you’ve been wondering,
we were asking too,
“What snacks should I have,
to go with this cold brew?”

This pizza, that cookie,
with what drinks do they pair?
So many possibilities
we were starting to despair.
But alas, this has been asked before
and upon completing a quick lit review,
Sierra Nevada’s crunched the data
and we’re passing their results onto you.