Archive for December 2011

Day 100: End of the 1st Semester

December 16, 2011

Exam Week ended with a math test covering our work on amortization and mortgages. Like all of the business math, pretty straightforward if you did the homework.

Thus endeth the semester, and a good time to evaluate the Brewmaster course thus far:

Practical Brewing (Jon Downing): One of my favourite classes (brewing is why we’re here), but one brewing day every three weeks just  is not enough. Brewmaster Jon Downing is occasionally able to offer other brewing opportunities, but ironically we are typically too busy with other classes to take advantage.

Ingredients of Brewing (Kevin Somerville): Kevin is an intelligent and humourous guy, and there’s a lot of very valuable brewmaster knowledge imparted in this class. There were some hands-on moments (making “teas” from various malts) and discussions about brewing, but Kevin tends to depend too much on PowerPoint slides. As he develops the course material and adds more “teaching” moments, this will become a great class.

Sensory Evaluation (Roger Mittag): Roger gave an eye-opening perspective on beer from the non-brewmaster viewpoint. The tasting lab was the perfect environment, and every class was educational. A brilliant class.

Introduction to Brewing (Gord Slater): Gord is very personable, and able to relate many anecdotes about brewing mishaps and near-mishaps–it seems that if it hasn’t happened to Gordo, it probably hasn’t happened to anyone. However, I didn’t relate well to his teaching style or class preparation, and feel I learned less in this class than what I had expected. A disappointment.

Math of Finance (Tony Cirasuolo): Unlike the instructors teaching the Brewmaster classes, Tony is a professional teacher, and it shows–well-prepared, tightly-focussed classes, homework exercises after every class, and well-written tests that were marked and returned promptly. The material covered  will be valuable to anyone planning to start their own business or planning to buy a house. A surprisingly enjoyable class.

Language & Communications: I was given a workplace exemption for this class, so I only took a few classes until my exemption paperwork was completed. However, my impression was that classes involved too much listening and not enough writing.

Computer Applications: This “class” was simply a series of on-line tutorials about Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, with scheduled on-line tests. The tutorials merely demonstrated how to pass the tests rather than how to properly harness these powerful applications, but the class didn’t require a huge commitment in either time or effort. If it was a waste of time, at least it wasn’t a waste of a lot of time.

Niagara-on-the-Lake campus:


  • A small campus with a pretty setting.
  • There are several food outlets for breakfast, snacks and lunch, and a licensed pub run by the students’ union.
  • The campus is right beside an exit on the QEW.
  • The library has study carrels designed for laptop use.
  • Free campus WiFi.
  • If you’re lucky enough to be walking by a culinary arts kitchen when they need someone to sample some food…OM-NOM-NOM-NOM!


  • Most of our classrooms only had a few AC outlets, making use of a laptop to take notes during a 3-hour class difficult unless you brought a spare battery pack.
  • The library sometimes seems to be more of a social centre than a research centre.
  • Despite the fitness craze, sports are not well supported on this campus. The fitness centre is absurdly small for the size of the student population, with only a few pieces of equipment. The gym is tucked away out of sight–most students do not even know it exists–and intramural sports seem to exist in theory only.

Fellow students: Great bunch. Smart. Driven. Always ready to talk beer or drink beer (or talk about beer while drinking beer.)

Overall: Despite the ominous clouds on the horizon (Chemistry and Microbiology), I am really looking forward to the second semester. However, first let me catch up on some sleep for the next three weeks and two days.


Day 99

December 15, 2011

Today was the exam for Gordo Slater’s Intro to Brewing.

I didn’t do well on it. Which is curious, since I did just fine on unit tests, presentations and reports for his class. But for some reason, I didn’t do well on the mid-term, and ditto for this exam.

But little time to think about it–on to a review of math before tomorrow’s final test.


Day 98

December 14, 2011

If the exam for Sensory Evaluation yesterday was disappointing, Kevin Somerville’s exam for Ingredients lived up to billing. As with any good exam, if you slept through the classes, you failed. If you knew your stuff and had studied, you passed. If you really knew your stuff, could think on your feet and thereby extropolate some of that into analysis, you could do very well.

I may not necessarily fit into the last category.

‘Nuff said. On to the next exam!




Day 97

December 13, 2011

And so, it begins.

Exams. Finals. The Big One. Crunch time. No tomorrow. Pass or fail. Duh-duh-DUHHHHHH!

Except some nameless clerk somewhere took a lot of the drama out of our first exam for Sensory Evaluation. Roger Mittag’s plan for the exam had been a series of blind tastings of both good beers of various styles (describe appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, and finish, then identify the exact style of beer, and if possible, the brand of beer), and a couple of beers that actually had discernible off-flavours. Not spiked with artificial flavour chemicals, but just bad on their own. Go through the same process of description and identification, but also identify the fault, and describe where in the brewing process it had happened. Then a short bit of written work, just to confirm we’d paid attention during the theory classes.

It was a great format, and had all of us apprehensive, yet anticipatory.

However, what actually happened is that the aforesaid nameless clerk scheduled the exam for a time when Roger couldn’t be present. Without Roger, no blind tastings. All that was left was the written part of the exam. It didn’t take us long.


Sensory Evaluation without using the senses seemed, well… senseless. Faceless bureaucracy triumphs over good taste again.


Day 96

December 12, 2011

The last official day of classes for the fall semester, and Ingredients of Brewing ran right up to the imaginary wire–first, an 80-minute test on material covered in the past three weeks (hop planting, hop diseases and pests, and the start of water chemistry, remember?), followed by another hour to finish up water chemistry. The calculation of brewer’s salts was the last eensy-weensy squiblet of learning squeezed from the Ingredients tube:

  1. Calculate how many milligrams per litre you will need of the ion. Gently set this number aside for a moment, with promises that you will play with it anon.
  2. Calculate the molecular weight of the brewer’s salt you are using, and the percentage of this that the desired ion represents.
  3. Retrieving the first number from where you set it aside a moment ago, divide this by the second number to give the number of milligrams of brewer’s salt needed.

Example: Using gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydride), we want to raise the concentration of calcium  in 10 hectolitres of strike water by 60 mg/L. How much gypsum do we add?

  1. Amount of calcium needed is 60 mg/L x 1000 litres = 60,000 mg
  2. Molecular weight of gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) is 40.1 (calcium) + 32.1 (sulphur) + 64 (4 oxygen) + 4 (4 hydrogen) + 16 (2 oxygen) = 172.2. The percentage of calcium is therefore 40.1/172.2 = 23.3%
  3. Amount of calcium needed/percentage of calcium = 60,000 mg/.233 = 257,655 mg = 257.7 grams of gypsum needs to be added to the 10 hL of strike water.

That was the end of the class but not of the term. Although classes “officially” finish today, we actually  have one more class with Kevin Somerville tomorrow afternoon, ostensibly to make up for Thanksgiving Monday.

In the meantime, on to business math for a final review, and then…

Cry “Havoc!”, and let slip the dogs of exams!

Day 93

December 9, 2011

This was the day to come to Business Math if you plan to buy a house sometime. We learned how to calculate CHMC premiums on high ratio mortgages, and then did some further calculations to demonstrate the salutary effect of paying extra lump sums directly against principle.

Then we downed calculators and listened as Professor Tony Cirasuolo took us on a quick jaunt into the world of negotiating mortgage terms (how to find better interest rates, open versus closed mortgages, variable versus fixed rates, allowable lump sum payments and penalties for non-allowable lump sum payments). It was information that could end up saving a home buyer thousands of dollars and many years of mortgage payments. Not so much a math lesson as a life skill lesson.

In the final Intro to Brewing class, Gordo Slater reviewed the information we have covered–which mainly consisted of him walking around the room, pointing at somebody, then asking a question.

“What are the two starches found in barley?”

“If it’s more expensive to have a separate mash tun and lauter tun rather than a combined mash/lauter tun, why spend the money on separate tuns?”

“Why would yeast that has been giving you an attenuation of 77% suddenly only have an attenuation of 74%?”

“Your beer left the brewery bright and clear. Three days later, someone complains that a glass of your beer was hazy. What happened?”

There were a lot of “deer in the headlight” moments. Although we came up with the most of the answers after some false starts and combing through the memory banks, it’s probably a good thing that there’s still six days until the exam.

Day 92

December 8, 2011

In our last Sensory Evaluation class with Roger Mittag, we had our blind “off-flavour” test. In order to do these tests, Roger spikes pitchers of beer with capsules specially made for this. Unfortunately, something was off with the off-flavour capsules–their contents weren’t strong enough this week–so we had a hard time detecting which off-flavour was which.

Roger promised us this wouldn’t be a problem during the final exam next week–he is using actual bottles of beer with real, very detectable defects.

A few weeks ago, I managed to get one of only 150 bottles of  Samuel Adams Utopias sold in Ontario. This is a 27% abv sipping beer that would likely take me about 8 years to drink on my own, so I offered to share one-ounce samples with my 1st-year classmates at the end of Roger’s class.

Here were some of their observations:

Appearance: no perceptible head. Good “legs” speaks of high alcohol level. Colour of mahogany, stained wood, dark rum, fading at edges to golden straw.

Aroma at start: aged port, vanilla, ice wine, molasses, maple, anise, black licorice, rummy, caramel, almond, salty (umami), brown sugar, maple-smoked bacon.

Taste (at 5 minutes): viscous and oily, mouth-coating, medium bodied, warming, boozy, black licroice, apricot, dried papaya, dried dark fruits (figs, plums and dates), old oak, old leather, sweet.

Finish: Thick, satiating, medium impact, relatively short finish with lingering fruit, warming, syrupy, sweet but not cloying.

After 10 minutes: wine cellar, baked brown sugar, taste softens, maple comes to fore.

After 30 minutes: less sweet, less umami, more anise, notes of pulpy orange rind.

And then we sat and looked at our empty glasses. A great way to end Sensory Evaluation.

My Post-Apocalyptic Life

The world has ended, but movies and games live on.

Married to Beer

Seeing the humour in a spouse who loves suds!

Ruminations of a Canadian Geek

The thoughts and ruminations of a university chemistry and roleplaying geek

Madly Off In All Directions

A blog about whatever strikes my fancy...

It's what's on tap...

Brewing, mostly.