Day 343

Two exams today, in Sensory and History.

It’s amazing how my attitude towards studying for either of them shifted dramatically in view of the fact that I already had a passing mark in both of them, and well, summer.

I have an exam for my elective, Myths and Legends, tomorrow night. It’s the only thing that I am in danger of failing since I began the program, primarily because it has nothing to do with the program.

That and it’s an online course. I haven’t the self discipline to stay on top of it, so I shall be cramming like mad tomorrow because who wants to have to re-do a silly elective?

Day 315

I could not get to Niagara in time for Sensory. I could blame traffic, the highway mess that is the HOV lanes during the PanAm games, my car, sunspot activity, whatever. Really, I just couldn’t do it for no reason other than I just couldn’t do it.

I am still feeling very burnt out.

I did get there in time to go to History, which turned out to be a most depressing class on the state of brewing post-Prohibition and the climate that opened the way for big beer corporations like SABMiller, Molson Coors and AB InBev to be formed. The end of the lecture was just diagrams of who bought who and when, where the top ten breweries had increased in market share from 34% in 2000 to 74% in 2010.

It was so distressing, I had to go home and drink a beer. And wear one of my new t-shirts from

New t-shirts!


Day 308

Red wine, oh how I could love you.

If only you didn’t leave me with a bloody headache. Although, it’s nice to see you’ve eased up on the migraines, so I guess that’s something. At this rate, I should be able to drink you without hurting my brain sometime around 2030.

Yes, Sensory class was all about red wine. And food. There are worse ways to spend a Monday morning than eating steak and drinking a cab franc, the one red I would risk a headache for. So delicious.

There was no photo of the food; I was too busy eating it.
Some pretty lacklustre tasting notes.

Then on to History and a look at Prohibition both in the US and Canada. Makes me want to travel back in time and say thanks to the Temperance movement and stodgy white guys for the carry over-over of stupid Prohibition-era laws to modern society (no, not really).



Day 301

Aaaand we’re back.

I can’t say that was the most fun break ever. I went on my annual writing retreat, which was awesome as ever, but I had thought I’d get to spend more time with my beloved than one day, so it was a bit disappointing to be solo for so much of it.

We got our marks posted on the mondo Brewhouse Calculations assignment. I did better than I expected, but not as well as I could have if I’d planned my time better and not gone away for a 4-day derby weekend before it was due. I hope the schedules line up next semester because I’d like to sit in on it again. Truly, I think it was likely the most useful course so far, and I hate that it was a compressed course done in only 2 months.

Sensory class was all about white wines and food. We tasted 8 wines with foods that were spicy (curry), creamy (mac & cheese), sour (choucroute), bitter/acidic (salad with dressing) and fishy/oily (scallops).

The wines were:

  • Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
  • Pinot Grigio from Italy
  • Pinot Gris from France
  • Vouvray/chenin blanc from France
  • Viognier from S. France
  • Riesling Spatlese from Germany
  • Gerwurztraminer from Alsace
  • Chardonnay from Niagara Teaching Winery
How I started Monday morning, making my 2.5 hour commute *almost* worth it

While I enjoyed the class and learned much about how alcohol, sweetness and acidity in wine affects the taste of the different foods, I can’t say I’m converted to white wine. Not that I’d ever turn one down, now that I know they don’t trigger my migraines any more. I much prefer the robust and complex reds, much the same way as I prefer robust and complex beers.

In the two hour break between Sensory and History, I finished the assignment that I’d had over a week to do and yet still left it to the last minute. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

We had to choose one of the historical periods covered so far, and create a business plan for a brewery in that period. Since there were really only 2 of the 7 covered where women really brewed commercially, it somewhat limited my options. I chose medieval England, and my creative writing project assignment proposed a larger brewhouse for a brewster in Oxford circa 1311: it’s here if you want to read it. It’s a period that fascinates me, where the growth in the Church’s involvement in brewing sees a corresponding growth in it’s denigration of women in brewing to improve it’s market share. Once again, the group without the power (women) loses, and the group with power (men and the Church) makes the money. Craft Beer and Brewing magazine had a good article about it, written by Tara Nurin, the historian for the Pink Boot’s Society.

Day 279

We were introduced to wine today. I thought for sure there would be a cartoon of someone being wittily or comically introduced to wine that I could put here, but Google says not. I did however go on a lovely 10-minute sidetrack to reacquaint myself with Gaping Void’s cartoons, starting with this one:

Anyway, back to the wine. I am a total wine newbie. I used to drink wine until my mid-20’s, until I realized that the blinding headaches I experienced the morning after were not hangovers after all, but migraines triggered by wine.

My intake of beer and tequila took a sharp upswing after that. But I digress.

Apparently one of the (many) changes women can experience at this age is a change in the triggers, frequency and duration of migraines. I haven’t had a migraine in years (although I did use it on occasion at my old job when I needed an attitude adjustment day, sshhh), and have tested the wine-drinking waters, and it looks like I’m ready to dive in.

It was a small sample today, two Chardonnays and two GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre). Kristina led us through a brief tasting of the unoaked and oaked chardonnays, and then of the Canadian and Australian GSM.

Quick introduction

All I can say after trying these four is that I have a ways to go to understand wine, but at this point I’d really rather have a beer. Neither the whites and reds tasted today made my taste buds do a happy dance. But it’s early days yet.

History class followed in the afternoon, all about beer and exploration. Vikings, explorers, settlers; all came travelling to the new world and all brought some kind of beer with them. It was interesting seeing the differences between the English puritanical settlers vs the Dutch ones as show through art, histories and stories. There was even a recipe or two, one from Catharine Parr Traill:

This excellent, and, I might add, indispensable article for every settler’s house, is a valuable substitute for ale or beer-yeast, and is made in the following simply manner:

  • Take two double handfuls of hops, boil in a gallon of soft water, if you can get it, till the hops sink to the bottom of the vessel;
  • make ready a batter formed by stirring a dessert-plate full of flour and cold water till smooth and pretty thick together;
  • strain the hop-liquor while scalding hot into the vessel where your batter is mixed ready; let one person pour the hop-liquor while the other keeps stirring the batter.
  • When cooled down to a gentle warmth, so that you can bear the finger well in it, add a cup or basinful of the former barm, or a bit a leaven, to set it to work;
  • let the barm stand till it has worked well, then bottle and cork it.

Seems simple enough.