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.

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!

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.

Keg washer

School, Day 0, in which I thank a lot of people

How to explain how I felt yesterday as I sat in a classroom for orientation, listening to people talk about the program I spent so much time and effort getting into. I think giddy covers it best.

(We’re going to gloss right over the nerves, anxiety, self-doubt and near-crippling panic that I experienced in the preceding 48 hours. The less said about that the better.)


Yes. We drank beer during the orientation info session. I can safely say we were the only program that did. They had 5 styles, but I felt that trying all five with no breakfast might be a mistake so I settled for samples of the NC Teaching Brewery saison and Septemberfest. Both made me wish I’d had breakfast.

I met most of my classmates. It appears that I am the only estrogen-based life form, which should make the next 16 months interesting. As well as from Ontario, there are two guys from the US, one from Calgary and another from Fredericton. I was as chatty as a nervous former teacher could be, so I’m pretty sure they know more about me at this point than I know about them. Note to self: sshhhhh.

Today is the first day of classes, and a fairly light one at that; an hour of Math of Finance at 11:30 followed by two hours of Computer Applications, which seems to be basically a self-learning software to guide one through the basics of MS Office. As someone who has taught it for the last 12 years, I am really hoping I can fast track through it.

I should go and have breakfast then shower and get dressed. But I can’t help but linger here over my coffee and think about how fortunate I am.

First and foremost, I have to hand it to my beloved. He was the one that planted this little seed in my mind by replying “Brewmaster Goodale has a nice ring to it” when asked what I should be when I grow up. He has been nothing but supportive and wonderful throughout the last year while I was recovering from having the rugged pulled out from under me and then planning and working toward this next stage. He is quietly sacrificing much. He is shouldering a larger financial burden while I’m a student, has seen his vacation cut short from 2 weeks as planned to 5 days to accommodate some work that came up for me, and is keeping the home fires burning solo while I’m at my mid-week home across the lake. He is, in a word, wonderful, and I am quite lucky to have him in my life.

While Keith keeps telling me I made it this far due to hard work, I could not have done it without a lot of help in one form or another from just about everyone I know.

  • my brothers Brian and Doug, and my sister-in-law Linda. They have been my cheerleaders in unexpected ways and have offered much needed moral support and offers of financial assistance (which I hope I don’t need). I am grateful for how they have my back.
  • The Moose, our friend who is graciously renting me a room in his house in Winona. I hope he still wants to be my pal after being my mid-week landlord for the next while!
  • The “beer girls” – Erica at Black Oak, Jen Murphy at Beerlicious and Jen Shute. I met them at the Prud’homme beer course and they have been invaluable sources of information and assistance whether it be a letter for my Second Career application or connecting me to beer folks so I can make some extra money doing LCBO tastings. You guys rock!
  • Bella Dodswell of The Career Foundation, who helped me navigate the paperwork minefield that is a Second Career application. My application would not have been successful without her cheerful advice.
  • Juliette, who is still willing and able to pick up the phone and talk me off a ledge, even though we live on opposite sides of the world from each other and are separated by a half a day’s worth of time zones. The woman has mad skills and I am proud to call her friend.
  • Lori is another friend from far away who is kind and generous with her time and herself. I appreciate her more than I can ever say.
  • Caroline, aka the Hoppy Beer Witch, who is funny and interesting, and who has been instrumental in whetting my interest in the BJCP.
  • Robin Le Blanc, the Thirsty Wench. I have only spoken with her a few times, but we have many common thoughts on social justice and equality. She has given me much to think on in terms of working to expand the diversity of brewing, while introducing me to people in the industry.
  • Toronto brewers, who helped my application by taking time to complete my survey: Steve at Liberty Village, Tomas from Spearhead, Jeff from Indie Alehouse, Mary Beth at Granite, Mandie at Left Field, Dave at Kensington and Doug at Junction Craft. Shout outs to Tina from Junction Craft and Paul from Flying Monkeys in Barrie who have patiently answered my many questions about the business on several occasions.
  • Nate Ferguson and Alan Brown of Niagara College, for giving me a tour of the college and patiently and promptly answering all of my email questions, no matter how big or small.
  • The women at the Admissions department of Niagara College. They gave me invaluable advice during the application process and their emails were always fun and friendly.
  • my derby pals, my former colleagues, former students, friends and friends-of-friends, and perfect strangers, all of whom said “wow cool” when I told them of my plan to become a brewmaster. No one said I was too old, too female, too unexperienced or too anything; everyone has been amazingly supportive and interested.

And for this, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I quite honestly could not have done this without you and I am grateful.

Let me buy you a beer next time I see you.

(cross posted from my personal blog, It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time)

Prud’homme Beer Specialist, last class

Our last class was fun. Well, fun after the final exam, I mean. I don’t know anyone who calls finals fun, even if said final is 50 multiple choice. No idea how I did other than well enough to pass the course. I was playing with the idea of taking the third level, the beer sommelier, but that depends on money and my acceptance to Niagara so we’ll see.

After the test, Roger set us up with a blind tasting. It was harder than I expected as unlike at the OBA judging, we were not give styles or the handy dandy judging sheet. I was able to guess two of the five styles, the smoked porter and the heffeweissen, as they are styles that are pretty obvious. I guessed at the remaining three but was only close, but no cigar.

Many of us went out after to the Loose Moose to celebrate over a few. I wish I could remember some of what I drank, but it got a little blurry. I do remember Tom breaking out his La Morsure by Trou de Diable which was so delicious it was dispatched in short order.

I am going to miss the class.

Prud’homme Beer Specialist, session 8

Tonight was the last class for level 2; I’m going to miss this. There’s been a lot of grumbling about the amount of work, with the tests, essays, etc. Me, I didn’t mind…I’d rather have too many assessments than too few.

Speaking of assessments, we got our tasting evaluation assignment and essay back – I was surprised by perfect marks. Surprised because I didn’t think I’d come anywhere closed to that.


Our last tasting session covered aged beers. Through a happy accident, Roger had acquired a big selection of aged Unibroue beers, my favourite brewery.

Aged Unibroue beers
Aged Unibroue beers
Style - aged UnibroueEphemere Pomme, 5.5%Maudite, 8%
Appearancecloudy, lemoncloudy, buckwheat honey
Aromaapple cider, lemon, underlying cheesemarshmallow, fig, vanilla, raisin, ginger
Tasteapple sauce, cheddar, a bit sourdates, figs, chocolate orange, ginger, nutmeg
Finishsoft mouthfeel, quick finish, slight fruit after tastewarming, silky, little carbonation


Style - Aged vs. FreshTrois Pistole, 8%, freshTrois Pistole, 8%, aged
Appearancecloudy, dark chocolatecloudy, dark chocolate
Aromachocolate, raisin, unripe melon, sour cherrywine/boozy, rum soaked raisins, sour/astringent
Tasteclove, corianderwarming, chocolate, tart
Finishquick finishchampagne effervescence

Prud’homme Beer Specialist, session 7.

Aaaaand back to the PowerPoint for session 7. Of course, it’s not like there are a lot of other ways to present pie charts and line charts easily, but I’d be much happier if there was another way of doing data visualization.

This class was all about the Canadian beer market, with enough numbers and charts to make even this data nerd happy. By volume, by dollar amount, per capita , by gender, by province (did you know that the Yukon consumes more beer per capita than even Newfoundland? Me either!), by beer type (domestic, import, craft, etc), and beer as a compared to other alcohols.

My head was swimming by the time we stopped for the sensory evaluation. And then it was swimming even more after tasting some fairly high ABV Belgians. Definitely an early night.


Style - Belgian Pale AlesAffligem Blond, 6.8%Goose Island Matilda, 7%Goose Island Sophi, 6.5%
Appearancecloudy, strawslightly cloudy, coppercloudy, lemon drop
Aromabanana, spice, slightly acidicfunky, old musty fruit, old apple juice, hayfresh, slightly unripe pineapple
Tasteripe pear, slight vinegar tangcomplex, still musty, apple cider, leatherpineapple, apples, mint
Finishdry, very effervescentsourdry quick finish, little aftertaste
Style - DubbelChimay White, 8%Duvel, 8.5%
Appearanceslightly cloudy, strawslightly cloudy, straw
Aromalittle breadiness, but mostly yeast notes: fruit, spicesmell the CO2, some banana, melon
Tastepineapplehoneydew, granny smith apples,
Finishvery drydry, champagne-like finish
Style - QuadsChimay Blue, 9%Golden Draak, 10.5%Rocheforte 8, 9.2%
Appearancecloudy, amber honeycolachestnut
Aromabread, almondpeanuts, vanilla as it warmstequila to start, cherry, cardomom
Tastewarming, plum, fig newtonnuts, chocolate chip cookiecherry, vanilla
Finisheffervescentdrydry quick finish

Style - Flanders, Oud BruinLiefmans Goudenband, 8%
Appearancedark cola
Aromaapple cider vinegar, winey
Tastecurrant, caramel, grape juice
Finishdry, fast