Day 197

Last night, CBC aired the third episode of a new show called The Big Decision. The premise of the show is that a business in big trouble seeks an investment from Canadian business tycoons Jim Treliving or Arlene Dickinson.  In last night’s episode, Dead Frog Brewery of Aldergrove, B.C. had run into a big financial mess. At one time the craft brewery had sales of several million dollars, but rapid expansion, equipment breakdowns, a bad batch of beer that had to be recalled and poured down the drain, and lack of marketing had put them into a cash crunch. When Jim Treliving visited, he found a small brewery that was producing no less than ten different beers, using an inefficient packaging line and warehouse that had been bodged together rather higgledy-piggledly. Before Jim decided whether to invest $500,000, he insisted that within two weeks, the brewery cut back to only four different beers, reorganize its production line and warehouse, design a new marketing campaign, and come up with a business plan and financial statement.

I won’t reveal how the brewery responded to the those challenges, or what Jim’s eventual investment decision was, but I was intrigued. These problems–or rather, how to avoid these problems–have been the focus of several different courses this semester:

  • Avoiding infection problems: Microbiology, Packaging, Equipment, Practical Brewing
  • Preventative equipment maintenance program: Equipment
  • Efficient packaging line: Packaging, Equipment, Practical Brewing
  • Marketing, business plans and financial statements: Strategic Communications

Of course I’m not saying that we Brewmaster students will avoid these problems, but I was fascinated that so many different instances of classroom theory can be seen in one real life case study.

As a big “for instance”, we talked about designing an orderly, efficient and sanitary packaging line in Brewing Equipment today. A veritable confluence of events. Neat!

In Chemistry Lab, although our experiments were linked to the gas laws that govern beer packaging, they were done with tools we could find around the house. At one point we simply inflated two balloons and put one of them into the freezer. When we took it out a few minutes later, lo and behold! the balloon had shrunk to about half its original size. Not exactly rocket science, but a perfect demonstration of Charles’ Gas Law, which states that the volume of a gas will decrease as its temperature decreases. (Or vice versa: the volume of gas will increase as the temperature increases, which you can demonstrate by leaving a case of beer in your car trunk on a really hot summer day. But be sure to use beer you don’t care about, and don’t leave any good clothes in the trunk either.)

Likewise, taking one can of Coke and putting in the fridge, then taking a second can of Coke and putting it in hot water will quickly demonstrate Henry’s Gas Law: the solubility of a gas decreases as the temperature increases. Or to put it another way, the cold can of Coke, even when shaken, opened with a simple and undramatic whiff  (because the CO2 stayed dissolved in the cold Coke), while the hot can, upon being opened, sprayed the unlucky volunteer with foam (because the CO2 refused to stay dissolved as the temperature of the Coke increased.)

At least it wasn’t beer that was wasted.


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