Brew La-La Takes Top Spot in Student Beer Brewing Competition

Belgian Blonde Ale Available on Campus Starting This Week

Students lean over large brewing kettle
UC Davis students Fermin Barbosa and Tali Cooper help brew their winning beer recipe at Sudwerk Brewing Co. in Davis. The team won the 2024 UC Davis Iron Brew Competition with Brew La-La, a Belgian blonde ale. (Courtesy Katherine Yanogacio, Sudwerk Brewing Co.)

In a celebration of friendship and fermentation, the 2024 UC Davis Iron Brew competition has crowned Brew La-La as this year’s winner. With each sip, this Belgian blonde ale features hints of honeysuckle, wildflowers and citrus blossoms that intertwine with subtle undertones of vanilla, bubble gum and honey. 

Brew La-La will be available starting Thursday (May 30) at The Gunrock restaurant on campus, and it will be on the menu starting the following day at Sudwerk Brewing Co. in Davis. The winning brew was crafted by students Fermin Barbosa and Tali Cooper, both seniors majoring in viticulture and enology. They’re looking forward to sharing their beer with the community.


Brew La-La will be available:

  • Starting May 30 at The Gunrock, open weekdays 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Starting May 31 at Sudwerk Brewing Co. (2001 2nd St.), open 3:30-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sunday

“We are incredibly excited to have won the Iron Brew Competition because of the opportunity to share what we made with our friends, family and the public,” Cooper said. “We hope that everyone who tries the beer loves it as much as we do, and that it becomes a part of everyone’s spring and summer experience, embodying fun, friendship and love.”

The Iron Brew competition is held every spring with students in the practical malting and brewing course within the Department of Food Science and Technology. The participants formulate a beer recipe and spend weeks brewing batches of various styles of beer at the campus brewhouse at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science complex.

As the winning team, Barbosa and Cooper were invited to work alongside brewers at Sudwerk to produce their recipe on a commercial scale.

“We feel lucky that the Sudwerk team has been so helpful throughout this process, allowing us to be involved every step of the way,” Cooper said. “Our beer was brewed in the original copper kettles that Sudwerk has been using since it first opened, which felt special, as our beer contributed to its long and iconic history.”

From grain to glass

Sudwerk’s operations manager Trent Yackzan said they look forward to working with students each year to offer a real-world perspective into the business and marketing side of the industry so they can see first-hand how they developed a beer from grain to glass.

Yackzan said this year’s winning team executed the beer style well and believes it will be a hit throughout the summer. 

“The recipe developed and brewed really nailed the Belgian blonde style,” Yackzan said. “It's a medium-bodied beer with low hop bitterness and a lighter finish, which will be very refreshing to savor during the incoming summer heat. It's an approachable and well-balanced beer, which fans of the style or newcomers are sure to enjoy.”

A colorful label for Sudwerk Brewing's "Brew La-La Belgian Blonde Ale" with Art Nouveau-style illustration featuring flowers, wheat, birds, bike. Text includes beer name, "Introducing Brew La-La...born from friendship of Tali & Fermin", brewery info, 6.3% ABV, artist credit, "PRAIRIE MALT", and "2024 Iron Brew Competition" logo
The label for Brew La-La, the winning beer from this year’s Iron Brew Competition.

The students also worked with Sudwerk’s in-house artist, Gregory Shilling, to create a label for the beer, which features colorful artwork depicting a lush green bike path surrounded by flowers and birds under a vibrant sun.

To Cooper and Barbosa, it’s more than just a beer. Brew La-La is a testament to the joy of friendship and the art of crafting something exceptional together. They met through the viticulture and enology program and their friendship is what they say helped them achieve success during the competition.

“The many hours of classes, labs and problem-solving sessions led us to become best friends,” Cooper explained. “We wanted to highlight friendship and creativity because we would not have been able to work together as well as we did without the foundation of our friendship to ground us throughout the process.” 

A portion of the proceeds from the beer sales will go to the brewing program, which prepares people to enter and excel in the beer and beverage industry and beyond. Glen Fox, Anheuser-Busch endowed professor of malting and brewing sciences, said the Iron Brew competition is an exciting event for pilot brewery staff, teaching assistants, and especially students who get to see their hard work culminate in a real-world application.

“It is a great experience for students, who have expanded their scientific knowledge, as well as managed one of the most hands-on courses at UC Davis,” Fox said. “We know that not all the brewing students will go into the industry, but they will remember this experience for the rest of their lives.”

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