Day 230: A Look Back at Second Semester

Took the weekend off to deal with an outbreak of dandelions, but now it is time for a look back at the second semester of the Brewmaster course at Niagara College:

Practical Brewing (Jon Downing): My comments from first semester still hold true–the enjoyable and busy days we spend in the Teaching Brewery are central to this course. However, one day every three weeks is not enough.

Microbiology lectures (Mark Benzaquen): Lots of valuable information, but way too much to be absorbed in one semester. Towards the end of the semester, Mark was fitting in extra lectures during lab times and even the day before the exam. This is a course that should be two semesters long.

Chemistry lectures (Mark Benzaquen): Another course with a lot of valuable info, but again, students would learn the concepts better if they could explore them over two semesters.

Microbiology and Chemistry labs: These were designed to be every other week. I would have preferred it if we had labs every week, and had done most experiments twice, or taken some of the experiments farther over a two-week period. I would have especially liked more lab work with yeast–propogation, acid washing, etc.–techniques we heard about during Microbiology lectures, but didn’t cover during the labs. Since there wasn’t enough lab equipment, we usually worked in groups of 5 or 6, meaning that 1 or 2 students would do the lab work while the others watched.

Packaging (Doug Pengelly): An enormously important class–safety, stability of product and setting up draught lines will be an issue with anyone who goes into brewing. However, some of the other students didn’t grok Doug: no PowerPoint slides, just lectures that included some diagrams on the board, requiring us to listen closely and take pages of notes. I totally got this style of presentation, mainly because this was the way I was taught from kindergarten to university. Doug also has a dry sense of humour that I enjoyed, but again, that may be a generational thing. I’m not sure why this class took place in a lab instead of a standard classroom–the toughest thing about this course was sitting on lab stools for three hours.In any case, I enjoyed the class and learned the concepts well (I hope).

Equipment (Gord Slater): Again, a lot of valuable information here, but I believe that sometimes Gord’s teaching style does not help him get his message across. He is most effective when he simply writes on the board and talks to the class, rather than using PowerPoint slides. I didn’t like the mid-term exam that was projected onto the classroom screen.

Sensory Evaluation (Mark Benzaquen): I really enjoyed Roger Mittag’s Sensory Evaluation course in the fall, and this class picked up from there. Absolutely must-know info here, everything from setting up a tasting panel to how various beer taints actually taste.

Strategic Communications (Sandra Merk): A class that not only taught how to put together a media kit and a business plan, but also forced us to start considering the hard concept of starting up a small business: The world will not beat a path to our door just because we brew the best beer in the world. How will we market our company, who will we market it to, who is our competition, and how do we reach our target audience? A brilliant, professionally taught, well-structured class.

Tomorrow: My overall thoughts about the first year of Brewmaster school.

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