Archive for December 2012

Day 465

December 16, 2012

Finished my Rock & Roll take-home exam and FCF paper, so yay, I have reached the official finish line for third semester. Here’s a few thoughts about each of the classes:

Filtration, Carbonation and Finishing: Nate Ferguson proved to be an inspired choice as instructor. Considering he was brought on-board just weeks before the start of the term, he showed up with well-planned and prepared lectures that set out first principles for each subject, then built on top of the principles. Each week, there was a quick review of the previous week’s concepts before we motored on. He explained difficult subjects using easy-to-grasp illustrations. And Cthulhu and The Hulk both appeared on lecture slides during the course, so how cool is that? Tests and exams were rigourous but fair. My only suggestion to the college would be to swap FCF with the Packaging course–it doesn’t seem to make much sense to learn about the packaging line and draught systems in second semester before you learn about how to get the beer from the fermenter to the packaging line in third semester.

Practical Brewing, Part Trois: Everything in the brewery looks so cute and small compared to the breweries we worked in during the summer. Still, any time in the Teaching Brewery is good time, and the link between Brewing Calculations class and the recipes we actually prepared for brewing was a welcome step.

Sensory Evaluation: This was perhaps the most practical course a future brewpub operator could ask for. What types of foods are served, why they are popular, how to cost out each plate, and how to pair beer to each, and then a complete mini-course in wines, with the added bonus of designing a beer cocktail. Eating and drinking samples during each class was gravy on the poutine.

Brewing Calculations: Considering Matt Howell was brought in as a teacher at the very last moment, he did a good job of teaching information that is absolutely essential for every brewmaster. My only suggestions would be weekly homework, and two or three smaller smaller projects or papers instead of one large project and presentation.

Business Ethics: While it is essential for future business owners to have a grasp of business ethics, we learned all the principles of ethics in the first two weeks. After that, it was just discussions, case studies and one-on-one debates. If this class had been designed with a specific focus on the brewing industry–much as the Strategic Communications course had been in second semester–then this could have been a valuable class. As it is, it served as little more than filler for 12 weeks of the semester.

History of Beer: Bill White is a very knowledgeable person, but his lecture style is rather dry, and the way the classes were each devoted to a certain aspect of history–beer and religion, beer and technology, beer and art, etc.–led to a lot of duplication of information. More troubling, the  course did not include any history on each popular style of beer–where and why each one was developed–nor anything about the history of craft brewing in North America, its roots in the 1970s, where it started, how it spread, who the main personalities were, and its ups and downs to the present time–pretty essential information for a class of future craft brewers. This is a course that is in need of a serious restructuring.

Elective: I enjoyed History of Rock & Roll, but of course,your mileage may vary.

With that done, I now have 25 days off. It’s seems like a lot of time, but I’m surprised by how quickly those “empty” days on the calendar have filled up. I’ve agreed to help a small start-up brewery bottle their first specialty beer–it involves corks and cages, hand labelling, and of course, my specialty, carton assembly and the glue gun. My summertime brewery would also like me to brew up a couple of one-off casks of ale–I’ve been tossing around the idea of a black pepper black IPA. (Any suggestions for a name?) An acquaintance wants to sit down over beers and discuss the idea of a brewpub. Some friends want to meet over beer to talk about beer. And of course, I have to plan out my Christmas beers for the season–what gets opened on Christmas Eve, what will go well with Christmas dinner, what to have on hand for when friends drop by, what to hide in case friends drop by…

When all is said and done, we’ll be back for the final 110-day sprint to the finish line.

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Day 464

December 14, 2012

The last final exam of the third semester, for Sensory Evaluation,was divided into two parts, covering the material we had learned from Chef Michael Olson about brewpub food and costing, and the material from Jennifer Wilhelm about wines. I found the most challenging part to be the 5-course menu Chef Olson had created–we were required to pair both a wine and a beer to each course, and justify each choice.

Sadly, there was no tasting component to the exam.

I still have the take-home exam for History of Rock & Roll  and a paper for FCF to complete, but as soon as I have finished those, I will share some thoughts about third semester.

 

Day 463

December 12, 2012

Felt a bit better today–no fever, just an annoying cough, which was a good thing since I had to get up before the crack of dawn to go online and choose my timetable for second semester.Then off to college for the last Tuesday of the semester.

We wrapped up History of Rock & Roll by asking the question “Is rock & roll dead?” Certainly the patient’s symptoms are not good: the top touring acts are currently the Rolling Stones, the Who, AC/DC and other bands from the 60s and 70s. Classic rock radio stations are booming. And the main audience for classic rock–the Baby Boomers–are in their 50s and 60s. What happens when the Boomers turn off the radio? Where is the next generation of rock going to come from, and what will it sound like? Is rock in its terminal phase? Or will it cheat death and revive, as it has done several times in the past?

At the end of the class, we received our take-home final exam–we have three days to complete what looks to be a couple of hours of work.

In Business Ethics, our final exam isn’t until tomorrow, so it was the last class of one-on-one debates. Prof. Perry did share with us that he would be comparing the marks from our mid-term exam and our final exam and only taking the higher of the two. Therefore, if we were happy with our mid-term mark, we can skip tomorrow’s 8:30 a.m. exam. Since I was very pleased with my mid-term exam mark, I think at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning I will be enjoying a second cup of coffee, possibly in my pyjamas.

On to FCF, where we did have a final exam. It was my favourite type, rigourous but fair, covering all topics in the class, the percentage of marks and time on the exam roughly corresponding to the percentage of time we had spent on the topic in class. If you had been paying attention in class, and had reviewed the previous tests and exams, it was pretty straightforward, and was probably a good indicator of how well you undestood the various concepts.

One more exam tomorrow, so off to study study study.

Day 462

December 11, 2012

First day of exams. Fever. Cough. I felt not quite bad enough to stay in bed but reasonably wretched for the Brewhouse Calculations exam, which started–of course–at 8:30 a.m.

Writing an exam is never a pleasant experience, and today especially so. Strangely enough, despite how I felt, I got through the calculations part of the exam with no problem. Grain weights, krausening, raising mash temperature via infusion, they all fell before my pencil and calculator. One would think that aceing the calculations in Brewing Calculations would guarantee me a good mark, but there were also several non-calculation type questions that my fuzzy mind had to contend with, and the old memory banks were clearly having a hard time. (“Name eight factors a brewer has to keep in mind when making a high-gravity brew”  was worth an astounding 16% of the final mark).

Oh well, on to History of Beer. The final exam for this was a bit more straightforward until I got to the last page. The final three questions asked my opinion about the course, what I found useful, and any changes I would suggest. Yes, I got marks for course feedback. Hmmm.

Another final exam tomorrow, so off to bed for some restorative sleep.

Day 457

December 5, 2012

Not one but two class presentations today. First up was my one-on-one debate in Business Ethics where I tried to support the resolution that it is ethical for celebrities to endorse products that they neither like nor use. The gist of my argument was that celebrity endorsements are so 20th-century, and if no one cares about them, does it really matter? OK, not a strong argument, but you didn’t exactly send me a lot of ideas, did you? <I shake my fist at the uncaring public>

On to Sensory Evaluation, where it was time for us to unveil our beer cocktails. A lot of them were fairly complicated, so no surprise when we went into overtime, much to the discomfiture of the next class waiting to get into the tasting lab.

The cocktails were very creative, and yes, they all included beer as an ingredient, in addition to various liqueurs and spirits, and even mead or eggnog. Most turned out to be sweet winter-time comfort drinks, so our light, dry, thirst-quenching summer patio drink, Green Wit Envy, was a bit unusual. For those of you who have been waiting for the recipe:

Green Wit Envy

  • Pour 1.5 oz gin, 1 oz blue raspberry syrup and a splash of lemon juice into highball glass 1/4 filled with crushed ice. (We used Bombay Sapphire London Gin for its botanical aroma, but if you prefer another gin…)
  • Pour 4 oz Belgian wit into glass. (We used Hoegaarden, but Rickard’s White or any other wit would also work). If you pour gently, the wit will combine with some of the blue gin/raspberry mix, turning a light green, while leaving a blue layer below.
  • Garnish with raspberry (or, as someone suggested, a raspberry frozen inside an ice cube).

Suggested food pairings would be summer patio fare: grilled shrimp, grilled veggies, fresh melon and berries, even just potato chips and dip.

After tasting 2-oz samples of 12 different cocktails, I then went to the college library to doze on the big comfy couch for a couple of hours.

Day 456

December 4, 2012

We are nearing the end of the story in History of Rock & Roll.  It’s the 1990s, and alt rock has hit the stage. But what happens when alt achieves the things that differentiates it from mainstream, namely radio play and record sales? Is it alt rock any more, or just another case of “sell out”?

And what about rap music? Has it reached its zenith? The intriguing concept was put to us that all rock music goes through three stages:

  1. Pioneer
  2. Perfecter
  3. Parasite (or Pretender, if you prefer)

So Carl Perkins was a pioneer, the Beatles perfected the form, and Electric Light Orchestra lived off of pseudo-Beatles music for most of the 70s. Go ahead, take your favourite age of rock music and fill in the three blanks. Rap would appear to be no exception to the Rule of the 3 Ps, so will it continue to thrive, or will it be replaced by something else that rediscovers innovation? That, of course, raised another interesting question: can any rock band survive success?

On to Business Ethics: more one-on-one debates.

In FCF, the final class before next week’s exam was all review. Just a quick skim of all the things we have covered took two hours.

And then the college threw a party for the beer, wine and food students. Free food! Yay! Free beer! Bigger yay! (But it was only two small glasses of beer: Smaller yay!)

Day 455

December 3, 2012

This is the second-last week of the term, and as we start to review what we have learned, it is surprising how far back into the distant mists of time the start of the semester seems.

Brewhouse Calculations, for example:

“Who can give the formula for calculating grain weight?”

Blank stares. We learned how to calculate grain weight?

“Week One. Remember? Grain weight? Anyone? Okay, how about the formula for determining strike water temperature?”

My mind raced furiously. I momentarily considered, then discarded the concept of simply sticking my pinkie finger into the mash and adding hot water until the temperature felt right. That didn’t sound like the correct answer for a calculations exam.

“All right, how about the first step in calculating yeast additions?”

Yeast. Hey, I remembered them. Facultative anaerobic single-celled critters. Pitching rates. Hectolitres. Cells per millilitre. Slowly the gears started to grind.

The best news of the day was that a sheet of formulae will be included with the exam. Now all we have to do is remember how to use the formulae.

Good thing we have seven days to study…

On to History of Beer, where we listened to the last batch of student presentations, including Probibition on both sides of the border, brewing in ancient Egypt, and Trappist breweries. Bill White finished the course with a look at brewing in the 21st century, and some trends for the future. Seven days until that exam too…


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