Day 6

Due to some curious scheduling, classes in our first semester have been bunched together mainly on Mondays and Fridays. Mondays are particularly busy times for the Brewmaster student, starting at 8:30 a.m. with “Brewing Ingredients”, taught by Kevin Somerville. Kevin’s young looks belie an impressive beer resume with some serious craft-beer street cred. A dedicated home brewer in high school, Kevin eventually studied at the famous beer-school collaboration of the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Doemans Academy in Munich (yes, a student enrolled here studies in both Chicago and Munich). Following graduation, he brewed at Alleycat Brewing in Edmonton, moved to Churchkey Brewery near  Campbellford, Ontario, then on to Taps Brewing in Niagara Falls, where he founded its Growler Club. When the  Niagara College Brewmaster course started up, Kevin became the program coordinator. In what is left for spare time, he brews at the Indie Ale House in Toronto.

Kevin warns us that “Brewing Ingredients” was rated as one of the tougher courses by last year’s students, then follows that up with a 3-hour overview of the various methods used to malt barley, from the ancient method of spreading barley on a large floor, to modern conveyor belt hot-air systems. At the end of the lecture, Kevin assures us that these three hours really were just a quick look at the “how” of malting so we have a basic understand the mechanics. Next week we start an in-depth examination of  the essential chemistry that turns the barley grain from something suitable for bread to something perfect for brewing.

In the afternoon, it’s more Business Communications, followed by Computer Applications. This is a mainly on-line course–you load a program onto your own computer that simulates Microsoft Office 2010. The program then leads you through a series of exercises that will teach you first the basics of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and then some power features. This is a standard course for almost all Niagara students–the skills learned are important for business communication, accounting, marketing and promotion.

Last course of the day is Business Math. As promised, it’s time for ratios, and the teacher quickly runs us through ratio calculations, converting ratios with decimals and fractions, simplifying one part of the ratio to 1, etc. This is all pretty easy Grade 9 math, but the teacher warns us that this is just a warm-up–it will get a lot harder very quickly. I make a note to look ahead at the next chapter tonight.

We get out of math at 5:30 pm–nine long hours after we started “Brewing Ingredients”. On the drive home, I realize that in a few short weeks, I will be driving to campus on Mondays before sunrise and getting out of class after sunset.

Frequently Asked Question of the Day: What are the costs associated with the Brewmaster course?

The tuition fees for the 2-year course are about $4,000 per year (which also includes a free transit pass  in St. Catharines and Welland, wireless internet, use of the gym and fitness centre, and a health and dental plan–although you can opt out of the health & dental plan if you have other coverage.) A parking permit for the school year is $200. The cost of textbooks for this first semester was about $550 if purchased through the campus bookstore, or perhaps 2/3 of that when ordered on-line, and I’m assuming it will be similar for the second semester. So the cost (not counting gas if you are commuting, accommodation if you are staying in the area, or food in either case) will be about $5,000 per year.

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