Semester 1 Wrap Up

I suppose that I should finish writing about the old, first semester before talking about the new shiny second semester.

General Education Courses:

I could have done better in this, but technical issues during my final assignment made me crazy. 90 is still pretty respectable though. The textbook was only referenced once or twice, and even then it was not critical information. Happy I was able to sell it back to the bookstore.

Computer Applications
No, I didn’t ace this, but came close. The way the software is set up, you have to use a specific method to complete a task. I decided to skip a few questions on the tests rather than invest a lot of effort into learning another way to do things.

Math of Finance
Good class on problem solving and how to use a business calculator to do the heavy lifting. Nestor was a great teacher, engaging and passionate about his subject.

Brewmaster Specific Courses

I did not do well in this course (by my personal standards), and failed the final exam in spite of working my ass off to create study notes and flash cards, and studying in every spare moment. I ended up with a 70. I loved the content, and learned a lot, but if there was ever a course that needed a text book for reference and self-learning, this is it. There is nothing I can write about the teaching style and assessment methods that won’t sound like a petulant teenager unhappy about her grade, so I’ll just leave it by saying that as an educator for over decade, I had issues with how the information was disseminated and how the learning was evaluated. Moving on.

One of the most useful courses. I joked with my friends about how it doesn’t suck to have to drink beer in class, which is true. It also didn’t suck to begin to build up a taste vocabulary, to taste the differences between the hops, between malts, to begin to understand and play with flavours. I loved the experimentation with spices and fruit, and the assignment on how to add different elements to beer was interesting and informative (except for the part where I ruined a pot when I let the star anise mixture boil away. Oops.)

Introduction to Brewing
Class time was used to host a variety of guest speakers from various breweries and supporting industries, which was invaluable in terms of getting real information and advice. The assessments were based on readings from the textbooks, and were a bit vague when compared to what I had to complete for every assignment. I did well on them as soon as I stopped stressing out and second-guessing what the prof wanted, and just wrote something. Some of my classmates thought the recommended textbooks “near useless”, but I found them be full of good information in an easily-accessible question-and-answer format.

Basic Practical Brewing
Loved, loved, loved this. What’s not to love about spending a full day in the teaching brewery, learning and using the equipment to make beer? Sure, there are crap jobs to do, but honestly, you don’t mind keg-washing and being sprayed with beer after about the 10th time *grin. Seriously, hands-on is the best way I learn, and this was all about being hands-on. Lots of opportunity to ask questions of guest brewers, and the staff brewers, Rob and Tanner, are amazing. The written assessments feel like a bit of an afterthought, but still relevant and useful.

Day 87 – Friday, Nov. 28

Fist period: Sensory Evaluation. Oh, how I love sensory; tasting ingredients and beer in a class is making me the envy of my friends and family.

I think I’d love it a lot more if I could tell the difference between peppery and piney at 9:30 in the morning. If there were more than two classes left, I’d start doing experiments with my alarm clock to find out just how long I need to be awake for my taste buds to connect to my brain.

Second period: Intro. Jon took us through some information on packaging followed by a presentation from someone at Sessions Mobile Canning. I feel like a dope for not writing his name down anywhere, but can’t find it on their half-finished website. Seems like an interesting niche though – I’m quite curious about what the actual costs of mobile canning would be vs. a canning/bottling line, and what a cost analysis between the two would look like, ie when would it make sense to buy vs. the additional convenience cost of the short run canning. This was the last real class for Intro as the next class is a field trip to Oast House and Silversmith (loving the field trips in this course!) and the last class will be dedicated to delivering our brewery design presentation.

Two classes left. Two weeks until research assignments, presentations and final exams are over. That sentence would stress me out, should stress me out, but I am pulling a Scarlett O’Hara and will think about it tomorrow.

Day 80 – Friday, Nov. 21

This was the second early morning sensory class. My system is just not sure about ingesting beer before the coffee has even had a chance to wake me up yet. It will get used to it just in time for the semester to be over and the schedule to be shifted around.

It was all about hops this morning, and we rubbed, smelled and tasted the noble hops (Hallertau, Tettnang, Saaz and Spalt) and near-noble hops (East Kent Goldings, Syrian Goldings, Hallertau Herbrucker and Fuggles. My favourite is Fuggles – I like its earthy and slightly floral notes the best. Plus,I like to say Fuggles. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say or think Fuggles without a little inner giggle.

Intro to Brewing was next, and we had Mark Murphy from Left Field as a guest speaker, talking about the trials and tribulations of contract brewing and then of building a brewery. I can’t wait to see it when it’s done, and so glad there is more east end beer action! It was a quick presentation; we went over past tests and assignments afterward and had a chance to voice any concerns about the program so far. The slightly scattered nature of the curriculum was discussed, how we learned hops first thing in one class, four weeks ago in another and just now in Sensory. I also mentioned concerns about the lack of detail in the midterm assignment which was basically one sentence, with no indication of how it was being assessed.

Jon took all our concerns and issues seriously and agreed to do what he could in terms of scheduling, and to give more detail in assignments. So we’ll see.

I did get my midterms back in Intro and Basic, and did well even though the vagueness completely stressed me out.

Early class dismissal was appreciated, so I could rush home to sit on on the QEW, the Gardiner and then on Overlea. Finally got home at 6-ish. The novelty has definitely worn off of commuting.

Day 66 – Friday, Nov 7

Intro: Paddy was back for the second part of his presentation on food-grade stainless vessels, with a focus on pumps and valves. I can now tell the difference between a butterfly and a ball valve and know what a calandria is. I took many notes in both parts of the presentation in preparation for the design-a-brewhouse assignment.

Sensory: This class was all about spices and teas. First we brewed teas from the spices & teas in the all-too-familiar Bulk Barn bags. I tried juniper (no taste as I didn’t crush the dried berries), ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and chipotle – the last ones were about as you expected. We also mixed spices into lager and wheat beer with mixed results. I liked the nutmeg wheat the best. The weirdest had to be Steve’s pizza beer. All it needed was a pepperoni stick garnish and a splash of tomato juice.

This is the last late afternoon sensory class, thank gods. While it will be weird to drink beer at 8:30 in the morning, I will enjoy being finished at 2:30 pm. I’m celebrating with some girlie services at the Niagara Waters Spa right after Intro!

Days 55 to 59

The week ran away without me again, what can I say. It wasn’t helped by being sick on Thursday and then having to get an emergency root canal on Friday. Yay.

Day 55

Ingredients class, and the dreaded mid-term. Other than the fact that I think I passed, I have no idea how I did. I did well on the multiple choice (I <3 multiple choice!) and short answer questions (I think), but there was a bit of a curveball in one section with hop analysis that could go either way. I could look it up to check, but am operating in ignorance is bliss mode.

There was still an hour left of the class after the mid-term, and Kevin began the unit on barley by identifying the various parts of the barley kernel.

Day 56

I spent the day on the craft side of the brewery, the first time since the first class. Jamie Shillow was in making her red ale, and I was able to help the process by stirring, moving hoses and valves, and mucking out the spent grain. There is quite a bit of wait time in the process, and I asked a tonne of questions.

Day 59

I was still feeling the effects of the ick that made me stay in bed the day before,making me a bit slow to get Intro. But I made sure to take lots of notes as the guest speaker was Paddy (sp) from PCM to talk about equipment and food-grade stainless steel. This apparently will be critical to know for the final assignment which is to plan and layout a brewery on paper based on certain parameters.

After Intro was Sensory. We got our mid-terms back (did better than I expected, insert rejoicing here), and we spent the first part of class going over them. Then we moved on to talk about sugars in malt, and got everything set up to brew malts in french presses for sensory evaluation. Unfortunately by this time, my molar was giving me major attitude, and I spent the break calling around to find a dentist still open somewhere between the school and Toronto. Luckily I found one, but it meant I had to bail on the rest of the class. I’m glad I did; I don’t think I could have lasted much longer at that rate. Nothing says fun Friday night like an expensive emergency dental visit. Sigh.