Germany, day 4

Day 4: Wednesday, April 27
07:30: Bus to Bamburg
10:00: Tour Weyermann Malting
12:30: Tour Schlenkerla Brewery
14:00: Lunch at Schlenkerla
15:00: Bus to Freising

Bamburg. One day was not enough.

Life highlight: being in the cellars of Schlenkerla where the brewmaster, the great-great-grandson* of the founder, poured beer for us out of the tanks. A truly remarkable day.

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Day 4, morning
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Day 4, afternoon.

*I may be missing a -great or two.

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.

Catching up – Days 27 to 35

This was the week that taught me two very valuable lessons: 1) I was being exceeding optimistic when I thought I could juggle school, relationships and 4 part time jobs; and 2) (related) I am nowhere near as good at multi-tasking as I think I am. Too much paying work to do assignments properly, and what free time remains is spent on schoolwork rather than on spending time with Keith or friends. I was beginning to resent work and school, and that is a slippery slope.  I’ve decided to not work Saturdays anymore, and am rethinking my plan to work at the two Bulk Barns by giving up either the nights in St. Catharines or Sundays in Toronto. The money is nice, but not if it comes at the cost of losing focus on what is important. Keith & friends > school > work.

Day 27

Understandably, the last week is a bit blurry when looking back on it. Monday was Ingredients class, where we had another highly-detailed lecture on water. I have still not quite got the hang of being fully present at these early Monday morning classes.

Day 28

Tuesdays are my favourite days. That’s the day we spend in the brewery. My group was on the pilot system where we made a Belgian Wit. I asked many, many questions and took lots of pictures of bits of hardware like hoses and valves. Still feel like I’m flailing here – nothing about 1 gallon home brew prepared me for this.

We also had a visit from Deborah Newman, the Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the government branch who funds Ontario colleges and universities. I was asked if I would meet with her when she came in, and of course agreed. A crowd of people in suits came in with her, and there was I in soggy tshirt (had a slight mishap with a hose, don’t ask) and dirty rubber boots. I gave her the five minute rundown on what we were doing and talked up the program. Apparently I did a good job of it, as both Jon Downing, the head brewmaster,and Dr. Dan Patterson, the president of college, came over to me afterward.

It was back to work after she left, and we finished the Wit, cleaned up, and sampled some of the Calabazas de la Muerte (Pumpkin of Death) kegged and bottled by the other group. I’m still on the fence over pumpkin beers; I won’t turn one down but I won’t go out of my way to find one. This one was good, but had a touch too much allspice and cloves for my tastes.

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Love brewery days!

Day 31

I had a blog post assignment due for Communications, and spent the morning editing and recycling a piece I had done for the Prud’homme Specialist class on women in brewing. I finished just in time for Intro to Brewing class, where we watched YouTube videos on hop production until the guest speaker, Matt from Canada Malting arrived. He went though two presentations that while pretty technical, were very interesting and filled in a few blanks about the malting process.

He went a bit late, and so we had about a half hour to eat a late lunch before Sensory class. Here Ray brought in 18 samples of crushed malt. Using Bodum French presses, we made teas out of them and tasted the differences between them. The tasting that followed was related and we sampled 6 beers from a variety of styles to compare the malt profiles:

  • Newcastle Brown
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Kilkenny
  • Ldn Porter
  • Guinness
  • Elemental

I was quite taken with the Elemental, a lovely porter from Renaissance Brewing in New Zealand with lots of chocolate and dark fruit notes.

Back around to Monday, Day 34

We had a guest speaker in, Mike Driscoll from Harvest Hop and Malt, who some of us had met before when we went out to his hop yard in Guelph. Before he arrived, Kevin handed out the tests on hops from a few weeks before and went over the questions. I didn’t do as well as I thought I did, with a mark of 71%. A few of my guesses were wrong (not surprisingly) and I had a few calculator errors thanks to that damed BA II Plus that I hate so much. Grrr. Just made me more determined to do better on the next one.

Alan came in with a couple of boxes – our work shirts were in! I always wanted a shirt with my name embroidered on it!

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This made me ridiculously happy!

There was also an assignment due in Ingredients, a research report on a hop product. I made two serious errors here – I waited until close to the last minute to get started on this, and used up all of my Saturday time with Keith working on it. I also relied on technology to sync my work from my home desktop to the cloud where I could retrieve it and work on it on Sunday night once I got back to Grimsby after work. It wasn’t synced, and thankfully Kevin gave me an extension to the end of the day which meant a lot of time in the school library’s quiet room re-doing a lot of work. Yay. It wasn’t great by any means, but something was better than nothing, right?

Day 35

Brewery day. We donned our new shirts and headed in. This week my group was on the larger brew system that was doing a contract brew for Brothers Brewing. Since there’s just too many of us to work on it (it involves a fair bit of standing around and waiting), most of the group headed to other tasks. Apparently, they had nearly sold out of the First Draft lager and ale, so some of the guys bottled for most of the day. Keg washing also had to be done, so I volunteered for that as I hadn’t worked on that machine before. There were a few hiccups in the machinery near the end, but we were able to get all but 4 processed.

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Keg washer

Day 3 and an unofficial field trip

Friday was another light day as the Sensory Evaluation class was cancelled, leaving us with only Intro to Brewing for the day. Jon Downing teaches this class, and spent the time going over some basics of history and the process. Most of this had been covered in the Prud’homme courses I had taken, but a refresher is never a bad thing. He then went over some of the safety hazards that could be found in brewery and gave us a tour of the teaching brewery building.  We all scattered at the end of class, and headed off to our weekends.

I met up with most of the guys again the next afternoon as Alan and Nate had arranged for a visit to Mike Driscoll’s organic hop-yard and micro-malting operation in Guelph.

Mike Driscoll of Harvest Hops
Mike Driscoll of Harvest Hops

Mike was great, regaling us with the story of how he came across the hops he went on to call Bertwell and how he got into the growing of hops at the Ignatius Farm, an organic co-op run by the Jesuits. He then went into some of the problems he’s run into; yellow mildew, aphids, bad summers. Not for the faint of heart. After a wee bit there and some photos, we headed off to his micro-malting space. Inside was the result of many hours of making and kludging to make a sprout grower and a piece of field farm equipment into some pretty nifty hardware. I would have liked to see the controller and ask more questions about the electronics, but it was time to head over to F & M Brewery for a tour.

where the malting magic starts.
Where the malting magic starts.

It was great talking to George, the owner of F & M, who treated us to a snack and a beer. It is obvious that he loves what he does. He showed us around his operation with great pride. He also happily donated a few malt bags to my sewing project and informed that it’s his wife who is behind Brewers Crap!

At that point, everyone was heading off to the Woolwich Arms for a pint, but I had to motor on to Orangeville for a derby bout.