Shit I did in the last two weeks while I was too crazy/busy/tired to post

I will be so happy when this semester is over, and I no longer have that unshakeable feeling of impending disaster because there are too many balls in the air and surely they will come crashing down any moment.

OK, maybe a tad dramatic, but it has been a busy two weeks. They might have been less nutty if I hadn’t taken two weekends away for roller derby tournaments, but I had fun and can’t bring myself to regret them in the slightest.

So here goes, my post about catching up. I know I don’t need to because as my friend Tyler says, bloggers can blog whenever the hell they want to about whatever the hell they want to, but it will always bug me if I don’t. For expediency’s sake, I’m making this a (mostly) photo post. Sorry, classes-without-photos, you don’t make the cut this time.

Day 185

Chem & Bio labs, where we learned to make selective media, and then poured many, many plates to use another time.

pretty colours
ooo…pretty colours
Home Brewing on the weekend

Tested out my new brewing equipment to make a Belgian Blonde ale with roses. The recipe was from the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book, and always intrigued me. I made my own Belgian candy sugar for it, and the resulting fermentation was vigorous and fascinated Smoot. She shall now be known as my assistant brewmaster, as she followed my every move during the process.

Making a Belgian Blonde with roses
Day 190

We had a field trip to the Labatt plant in London to see a large facility in action. We were not allowed pictures inside the brewery, so alas, no Vines of bottles happily clinking along the conveyors through washing, filling, capping and packaging.

Fermenters fermenting in the winter sunshine.
Fermenters fermenting in the winter sunshine.
Sampling Goose Island IPA, post tour.
Scotch Tasting

No beer club this week, but we held a special guided scotch tasting. I went to see if I could develop a taste for it, or personal descriptors that went beyond “gasoline”. I couldn’t.

Japanese, Indian, Swedish and Scotch scotch
 Day 192

A long lab in identifying the things that grew on the selective media plates from last week. An equal mix of kinda gross and kinda cool. No one knows what the spiky one in the top right was, not even the prof. Some other growths had to be re-plated to identify next week.

More weird & wild growths
Day 197

Back in the brewery and on the pilot side to brew and log the process for our final assessment. It was pretty cool to do the step mash for the first time, not so much to do it for an assignment.

Nothing like trying something new on an assignment.
Beer Club

I didn’t stay for the full beer club, but I did submit my aged sour cherry and smoked sour cherry ales for tasting. Still some slight over-carbonation issues, alas. I will make the smoked version again in a bigger batch this summer, with more cherries and a smaller proportion of the smoked malt.

My aged sour cherry ale.
Day 199

We spent this lab jostling against each other in the tight quarters of the brewery as we practiced yeast rinsing (no acid) and yeast washing (with acid). During a break, I headed back to the lab to look at the plates from the week before. I learned quite a bit, not the least of which is that I still suck at trying to focus a microscope.

Pulling yeast out of the fermenter cone.
Re-plated samples on the top


Beer Club: NY, VT & ME edtion

It is a bit surreal to find yourself being applauded for bringing beer to an event. Don’t get me wrong, I kinda liked it, but it was a bit….weird.

What did I do to deserve the applause? I brought Heady Topper (aka Beer Unobtainium) and Hill Farmstead Abner to Beer Club.

The best ones IMHO

It was a great event. I stand by my initial review of Heady Topper (meh. is it supposed to make my tongue go numb?), and preferred the more complex and slightly softer Abner by Hill Farmstead. A quick informal poll showed that about 30% of the club agreed with me.

As well as the two big names, we also had (links to reviews):


Day 161

Days 148-156 recap:
148 – Brewing – I finally remembered to bring in a carboy, so was able to snag some of the Spanish Armada stout to ferment at home. It’s got some smoked and hot peppers in it, and has a nice subtle fire to it. I threw in some Nottingham dry yeast I had in the fridge, but it took a few days to get going. I know that Moose’s basement is cool, cold even in this winter, but I was expecting/hoping for a bit more liveliness. I rehydrated the yeast, but maybe didn’t aerate it enough. That and the cold would be enough to stress any organism out.

149 – Packaging and test that I was woefully unprepared for. I keep thinking that my brain is as elastic as it was the last time I went to school, when I could read something the night before and retain it enough to ace a test the next day. It’s not.

Also on day 149 – Beer Club! Quebec beers were showcased, poutine was eaten. Life was good.

from La Belle Province


150 – SCIENCE! I <3 science. We finished up labs from the week before and did a rather long lab on mash, starch and iodine. There were setbacks, but we got there in the end.

153 & 154 – I might have been a tad scienced out. 4 hours of Bio & Chem on Monday, then 4 more hours on Tuesday to make up for the snow day. I had such a killer headache by the end of the lecture on Tuesday that I gave up and went home, missing Equipment. this sums it up nicely:

155 – Brewery day, on the pilot system this time. We brewed the Spanish Armada again, only sans peppers, and it was a quick day. Which is good because I was up all night finishing the assignment for Strategic Communications where I made a media kit for Goodale Brewing. I’ll be honest, I spent way more time on the fake logo for the fake (for now) brewery than I did on the media kit itself. Me = design geek.

156 – Packaging was all about bottling lines. Remembering my poor performance on the previous week’s test, I paid attention & took copious notes. We’ll see how that translates to answers on the next test.

Sensory was all about trying to catch up from two missed classes, which meant sampling the a lot of beer. Yes, I know, it sucks to be me.

BJCP styles 5, 15 and 16


And another beer club! We tried to get a selection of beer from countries that weren’t really known for their beer, like France and Italy, and had a few pleasant surprises. We have also teamed up with Yellow Pear, a husband and wife catering team who are graduates of the Niagara College culinary program, who put together a great meal of chicken chasseur and pierogies. Thursdays really are my favourite day.

The Europeans


156 – I got there bright and early for the labs, and quickly began to feel like crap. I ended up leaving around 10 or so, much to the relief of my lab partners who didn’t want to catch anything for a long weekend. I went home where I was reunited with my bed.

Family Day Weekend:
Other than feeling sucky because 1) I had a cold and 2) couldn’t get up North to the cottage as planned, it was a great weekend of no work (if you don’t count 10+ hours working on bio/chem problem sets), just hanging out with Keith and the cats. I finally did some home brewing which was amazing, using some new equipment which was even more amazing. I’d won a carboy from Toronto Brewing for liking a Facebook post, and picked it up along with some other stuff. We also went back later that afternoon for more stuff, as Keith was interested in mash tun coolers. And now I have one! Some women get flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day. Screw that; brewing equipment is so much better. I finally got to use the immersion chiller that Keith made for me; no more waiting on ice baths for me. The peppercorn rye beer was bubbling and gurgling happily when I left to come back to Niagara, can’t wait to see how it turns out.

chilled in about 10 minutes


Day 161
Which brings us to today. We had bio & chem lectures today and I was actually able to follow it! We covered aging and contaminations in bio, and boiling and DMS in chem. And now I have a greater understanding of why some of my beers have turned out the way they have: for example, there is a great difference between an around-the-edges-simmer and a full rolling boil. Oops.

Day 128 and Beer Club

Two classes on Thursday; packaging and sensory.

The first packaging class was all about the history of liquid containers, then looking at the pros and cons of glass and aluminum bottles, cans, kegs, casks and PET. Lots of information, 98 PowerPoint slides worth. We didn’t get through it all, as Rob shared a lot of anecdotal information that he has gained from experience over the years.

I feel that the most important slide was #7, that this is one that knowingly or unconsciously I’ll be coming back to the most:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 10.59.02 AM


Sensory class was next, with a new professor. Victor is a BJCP judge who I met briefly while stewarding the OBA’s last year, and is teaching us all about beer styles based on the BJCP style guidelines (2008). This class was mostly an introduction to the BJCP, and ended with me emailing a few people within a decent driving radius who were hosting entrance exams in 2015 to see if anyone has a seat (Yes, got one in Buffalo in August).

Beer Club

The first one of the year was a wild card. It looks like there is a class in the culinary theatre now until 7:30, so we are in the smaller theatre style classroom in the basement. There were 8 home brew submissions, including my own chocolate oatmeal stout, which decided to gush. Really looking forward to understanding more about yeast and carbonation so I can figure out what’s going awry. Luke mentioned that it might just be the scale that I am working in – 1/4 tsp extra priming sugar makes much more of a difference in 1 gallon batches than it would in 3 or 5 gallons.

The commercial craft portion was all American beers gleaned from Premium Gourmet in Buffalo:

First beer club, 2015

Like a dope, I forgot to write any notes, but I do remember that my tastebuds quite liked the Firestone Opal and the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale.


Day 91, Beer Club and Beer Advent Calendar Day 2

The stars aligned to give me many beer-y things today.

Brewery day
I spent the morning in the brewery alternating between bottling and keg-cleaning until some of the boys were done with the mash. The project today was to make some of Alan Brown’s strong Scotch ale, Highland Gale Highland Ale, that won him this year’s Iron Brewer award.

Once the first mash was done, it was distributed to the kettles in the pilot system, and a second mash started. We had the chance to take home some of the copious quantities of extra wort, but alas, my extra carboy was in the dead car. I did see that there were several experiments going later in the day with ingredients from subtle to crazy.

Beer Club
After missing the last one, I was really looking forward to this winter warmer/Christmas ale edition. The catering staff at Benchmark set us up with a great turkey dinner to accompany it.

Nate, one of the professors, cracked open a bottle of Unibroue’s La Resolution for us early birds and helpers. I have to say that this was one of my top 3 of the night, filled with some well-balanced spice and caramel notes. It tasted like what my grandmother’s gingerbread would have tasted like if my grandmother had made gingerbread. The home brew followed, and Meag’s Tis The Saison Advent Brew really stood out for me, with some great flavours from the saison yeast, raspberries, cocoa nibs and vanilla. It tasted like a light raspberry truffle.

And then the main event:

7 of the 10. Not including home brew.

All so very delicious. Especially the Adoration by Ommegang; complex with lots of dark fruit, caramels and orange, but not heavy or cloying. Might have to make a trip to Buffalo just to get more.

Beer Advent Calendar
When I asked my beloved to pack the beer, I asked him to keep the big bottles for weekends if at all possible. I should have asked him to look at the ABV as well. Day 2’s beer is a monster at 17%. I debated even opening the Mikkeller Black, but my housemate came home just at the right time and shared it with me. Or that was the plan.

No. Just no.

The beer is so dark, it’s like a long dark teatime of the soul. There’s lots of molasses and smoke on the nose, and the taste is overwhelming like toffee with cigarette ashes. We wanted to take a second sip, but were frankly afraid. My housemate called it the Buckley’s of beer. I am tempted though to buy another bottle and cellar it for a few years to see how it mellows out. There’s still some at the LCBO, and I’ve spent more on crazier things.