Students taking History of Alcohol huddled around at College Heights Brewery last Friday, Feb. 9, as their instructor, Andrew McMichael, associate dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters and history professor, spoke about an experimental batch of pre-Prohibition style beer that College Heights Brewery had in the works.
In the group were three men particularly influential to WKU and Bowling Green, the original members of hip hop group Nappy Roots, each with a College Heights Brewery-brewed beer in hand.
Formed on WKU’s campus in 1995, Nappy Roots has toured all over the world, released a best-selling hip hop album in 2002, “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz” and recently started up its own brewing project, Atlantucky Brewing.
The group started brewing a little over a year ago, led by member Skinny DeVille, who arrived at WKU in 1993.
DeVille said craft beer is special in that it “[brings] a common denominator,” allowing people to speak and meet each other when they otherwise wouldn’t.
“I appreciate beer,” DeVille said. “We talk beer. We drink beer. We sample beer … All people can.”
When they discovered that WKU has its own distilling program and brewery, College Heights Brewery, located near South Campus, Nappy Roots scheduled a meeting date there, and members of the group were able to talk beer with McMichael, a self-proclaimed Nappy Roots fan and home brewer for nearly 30 years, and biology professor Rodney King, who teaches the Fermentation and Microbiology course.
McMichael said he was impressed by the group’s interest in brewing, and said he enjoyed just standing around with the members and discussing beer and brewing.
“A lot of brewing is standing around with people and talking beer,” McMichael said. “It really is hanging out with fellow brewers.”
As for the members’ knowledge about brewing, McMichael said he enjoyed listening to DeVille’s ideas concerning beer and how to brew.
“Skinny knows how to make beer and is good at it,” McMichael said. “I was deeply impressed by his knowledge.”
McMichael said he’s glad Nappy Roots visited College Heights Brewery and hopes more alumni decide to do the same.
“They are exactly what we want for our brewing program … It just happens that they’re famous,” McMichael said. “We would love to have any alumni group come back [to College Heights].”
Nappy Roots member Ron Clutch, who also started at WKU in 1993, said he’s happy to know the group is still impacting Bowling Green positively.
“We’ve traveled the world,” Clutch said. “Now we’re making beer back at Western. It’s a confirmation that we’re on the right path.”
After so many years of recording successful and popular music, Clutch said he has enjoyed the group’s shift to beer, working to inspire others in a different way.
“Success comes in different forms and fashions,” Clutch said. “Sometimes being able to inspire others is something else.”
Member Buffalo Stille joined Nappy Roots in 1997 and said the group’s interest in brewing was rather sudden.
“It kind of sucked us in,” Stille said. “We got into it and started loving the craftsmanship.”
In response to visiting College Heights Brewery, Stille said the brewery is “beautiful,” noting that “none of this was on campus when we were here.”
Stille said he felt humbled revisiting WKU and Bowling Green.
“To come from doing our first show here to now,” Stille said. “To know the journey we’ve been on and coming back … It’s amazing.”
King said any interest in the program is appreciated, and that he’s glad the group could see how much WKU has changed since its members attended.
“It’s absolutely wonderful for people to see the new and exciting things that are happening at WKU,” King said.
DeVille said he’s glad to see how much Bowling Green has changed since he last lived there in 2005.
“Since 2005, a lot has changed,” DeVille said. “It’s good to see that Bowling Green is adapting to all the change.”
Atlantucky Brewing has partnered with Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville and is scheduled to release a new craft beer on May 2, flavored after the group’s first commercial album, “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz.”
Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2655 and email@example.com.