Day 465

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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