This entry is part 22 of 28 in the series Spring - 2017


Nicole Garneau

Head of the Genetics of Taste Lab at the
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and
Co-Author of the Beer Flavor Map

by Becky Jensen

Describing complex beer flavors can be tough. Maintaining consistency between batches can be even tougher.

But thanks to Nicole Garneau (Ph.D., microbiology, ’09) and fellow scientist Lindsay Barr, identifying flavors and judging the quality of craft beer just got easier. Garneau and Barr are the brains behind the Beer Flavor Map, a science-based analysis tool that is changing the way industry professionals and casual drinkers alike think about the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel of beer.

The Beer Flavor Map is a big improvement over its predecessor, the Beer Flavor Wheel – a chart created in 1979 to help describe flavors in beer. Although the wheel helped standardize beer flavor terminology, the creators knew it had limitations, so they challenged the brewing industry to improve it as the science of taste advanced. Nearly four decades later, Garneau and Barr respectfully took the wheel, raised their pints, and toasted, “Challenge accepted.”

“I was first introduced to craft beer when I was a grad student in Fort Collins, so you can correctly assume CSU played a role in the Beer Flavor Map,” jokes Garneau, who admits to spending more than one afternoon in the New Belgium tasting room enjoying “preliminary research” nearly a decade ago.

But the rigorous science that shapes today’s Beer Flavor Map is no joke. The Map was adopted by the World Beer CupSM and Great American Beer Festival for judging in 2016.

“It’s awesome to have such a strong alumni presence in Denver, and the Alumni Association makes it easy to stay involved. The networking benefits alone have paid huge dividends.” – Nicole Garneau


In addition to co-authoring the Beer Flavor Map, Garneau is head of the Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where she studies the way DNA affects our ability to taste and how taste influences what we choose to eat and drink.

Her groundbreaking, crowdsourced research on oleogustus – the newly discovered sixth taste of fat – was featured on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. She’s a founding member of the Brewers Association Beer & Food Working Group, founding board member of the Colorado Bioscience Institute, adviser for CSU’s Fermentation Science and Technology Program, and co-founder of the sensory analysis software company DraughtLab (the app version of the Map). Garneau credits Colorado State with helping advance her career as a scientist and entrepreneur. “What sets CSU apart for me is the emphasis on science communication,” she says.

As a graduate student, Garneau was required to give countless public presentations and make science come alive for her audiences – skills she uses to this day. She was also an intern at CSU Ventures, an opportunity that inspired her to start three companies.

“It’s awesome to have such a strong alumni presence in Denver, and the Alumni Association makes it easy to stay involved,” says Garneau, who is a life member, as is her husband. “The networking benefits alone have paid huge dividends.”

Old Aggie Ale


What could be better than toasting your favorite school?

How about toasting your favorite school with its own special beverage? Colorado State University fans will soon have that opportunity.

Old Aggie Superior Lager, a one-of-a-kind collaborative beer created by New Belgium Brewing, will be available throughout Colorado – including the new on-campus stadium – starting July 1.

The label of the new, light-bodied brew features an old-school CAM the Ram and vintage orange and green accents. A portion of the proceeds will help support CSU’s Fermentation Science and Technology Program, CSU Athletics, and alcohol awareness and education efforts on campus.