Local grad goes full speed with summer training, Leinie’s internship

Friedman prepping for cross-country season, career in food science

MENOMONIE — The summer of 2019 was anything but a time to relax for Mike Friedman, who is a senior this fall at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Quite the opposite. He took things up a notch or two.

On weekday afternoons, the food science and technology major has been, on average, going on an 11-mile run in and around Menomonie. A member of the Blue Devils cross-country team, he’s following coach Matt Schauf’s off-season training schedule — about 80 miles a week — to prepare for the fall season.

The long runs come after he’s risen at about 4:30 a.m., driven about 60 miles round trip to Chippewa Falls and worked a full day to prepare for something else — his career. Friedman interned at Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing as a food scientist. He was part of the quality assurance team overseeing the brewing of many Leinie’s brands.

After getting a taste of the brewing industry the past few months, Friedman, of Oconto Falls, would love the chance to work full time for a company like Leinie’s.

“It would be really cool to work for a craft beer company. The process is unique. I love using my hands and knowledge,” Friedman said, aware that opportunities in the industry have multiplied in recent years with the growth of craft beer sales and small breweries.

“I like representing Leinie’s. It has a rich history and is a prestigious company. I enjoy seeing the product being bottled. It’s very satisfying, knowing it’s being shipped out all over the country,” he said.

Along with brewmaster John Hensley, Friedman has a mentor in Preston Beyer, who graduated in May from UW-Stout in food science. Beyer, of Plymouth, had the same internship as Friedman and was hired full time at Leinie’s.

Friedman said part of the job satisfaction, even as an intern, is his role in the production process. In the quality assurance area, he has a variety of daily duties.

A dozen times a day, when brew tanks are changed, he tests finished beer for color, calories and specific gravity, the latter to help track the percentage of alcohol content.

He tests beer on the bottling line for the correct torque on the caps, checks fill line levels and pulls samples for bacteria growth and wild yeast growth tests.

Tests for sulfur dioxide are conducted on beer that is aging. Levels of the chemical compound, which forms during the fermentation process, have government restrictions.

He also routinely tests the spring water used in the beer to make sure it’s meeting Leinie’s standards.

Friedman’s work has taken him into the labs, brewing and bottling areas, beer aging cellars and more at the historic brewery, which started in 1867.

“I’m seeing a little bit of everything,” he said.

Valuable experience

The internship is being coordinated through the Cooperative Education Program in UW-Stout’s Career Services. In co-op positions, students receive a competitive wage and earn academic credit while reporting to their academic adviser.

The food science and technology program requires an internship. “An internship is pivotal for students to gain industrial experience and exposure to the food industry sector,” said Cynthia Rohrer, food science program director.

“This co-op has enabled Mike to get involvement at a company related to his field of study along with a better understanding and practical application of his course work and how it relates to real-world food industry settings, as well as a clearer picture of his career goals,” she said.

Friedman began working at Leinie’s on May 20 and finished Aug. 16.

“Mike is a very dedicated student and is eagerly engaged in many aspects of food science, which led him to his valuable co-op experience at Leinie’s,” Rohrer said.

The food science program at UW-Stout prepares graduates for jobs such as food technologists, food scientists, technical consultants and product development managers, as well as research and development directors for food manufacturers, research labs and government agencies.

Friedman says he’s especially enjoyed the lab-based classes, which have covered sensory, analytical and chemical aspects of food science.

He became interested in the food science field while in high school. He competed in track, cross-country and wrestling, and during that time began playing close attention to nutrition to improve his fitness level.

“I had to eat well,” he said.

He was a three-time state cross-country meet qualifier at Oconto Falls. At UW-Stout, he placed ninth in the conference meet in 2018 and received national all-academic honors.