Day 272

No more food in Sensory, alas. We’ve switched to the second portion that’s all about spirits and wine. Our first communication from the prof, Kristina, was an admonition to eat a good breakfast. I thought I did, but my coffee, oatmeal and bacon sandwich proved to be no match for this:

From left: gin, brandy, scotch, Jack Daniels, Jaegermeister, St. Germain and Kahlua


It’s not like we were doing shots though; the usual sensory steps apply (look, smell, sip) with the addition of one more: spit. And believe me when I say that there does not appear to be a way to do it nicely. 

Kristina led us through some of the basic differences between spirits and liqueurs (liqueurs have spices, fruit and/or sugar added), and a brief overview of the basic types of each. And then the tasting.

It was a blind tasting to work on vocabulary without prior bias, and some were easier to identify than others. Gin? Nothing else smells of juniper like that. Scotch had the peaty/smoky thing going for it, I have a bottle of St. Germain in my liquor cabinet and I have drunk enough Black Russians in my youth to know Kahlua. I thought the brandy was bourbon, which tells you how long it’s been since I’ve drunk either. And I have to say that the Jack Daniels and Jaegermeister took me by surprise. My personal biases have gotten in the way of me really trying them before this. I may never be a JD drinker, but the Jaeger might be something nice to sip on after a meal.

The other Monday class is History, and Alan took us on a medieval tour of European brewing guilds. Brewing was still being done by women in the homes, but it had transitioned to a male-oriented career once technology and ingredient availability made it possible to brew larger, profitable batches. Gee, there’s a surprise.


I waas the happy recipient of this from my classmate, Nick, as payment for recording a Calculations class he had to miss. I told him that payment wasn’t necessary, but I still took it!

I call things like this Unobtanium, you can’t get it anywhere around here.


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.


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 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!