Posted tagged ‘Jon Downing’

Day 591: Final day of the program

April 19, 2013

The last day of Exam Week started with a meeting. A few weeks ago, a couple of us Brewmaster students had been asked to discuss the course curriculum with our fellow students. This morning, we brought those comments and suggestions to a meeting with Craig Youdale, the Academic Chair of the department and Jon Downing, the Teaching Brewery Brewmaster. We have already seen changes made to the first year of the course, some of which may have been due to our comments last year, so we hope that the comments and suggestions made this morning will have a similar effect on the second year of the course, and on the program overall.

The meeting ran long, so I was actually very late for my final Creative Writing class–only got there in time to hand in my  portfolio.

And then it was time for the final final exam….errr… last final exam, in Sensory Evaluation.

And that was it for the Brewmaster program.

Done. Finished. Over. Completed. There is no more. Woo-hoo!

Contrary to the title of my blog, it’s not quite 600 days since I started–due to a change in the structure of the spring semester this year, we are finishing one week earlier than originally planned… but “591 Days to Brewmastery” doesn’t have the same ring as “600 Days”, does it?

So what now for this new “brewmaster”? First–and most important–it’s time for a cold beer!

(Okay, let’s admit it–just about any time is a good time for a cold beer. But I digress…)

Over the next few days, I’ll post some reflections on second semester, and some thoughts about the Brewmaster course overall.

Day 589

April 17, 2013

Two more exams today.

First up was Sales & Promotion. Pretty straightforward mix of multiple choice, short and long answer.

Then Brewery Management–a mix of multiple choice and short answer, plus one long question that involved rounding off hectolitres of beer for purposes of excise taxation. (Long question: I hate it when you think you’ve got the proper way to solve the question figured out, then right after the exam is over, someone mentions the proper way to do the question. D’ohh!)

Brewmaster Class of 2013

Brewmaster Class of 2013 and cask of grad beer

Although most of us have one exam left, a few students have to leave early in order to start new jobs, so they have already written the last exam. Yes, this was their final day. It seemed like an appropriate time to gather in front of the Teaching Brewery for a quick snapshot with Brewmaster Jon Downing and our cask of graduation beer (“The Fox Sleeps in the Barn” Niagara Peach Lambic-Style Sour Brett Ale).

The cask will be tapped this evening. Luckily for all concerned, our final exam is not until the day after tomorrow.

Day 561

March 22, 2013

I was scheduled to be in the Teaching Brewery today; since I had brewed my specialty beer three weeks ago, I was going to be cleaning kegs, bottling, etc. However, my summer brewery wanted me to come back and brew up a one-off, and a group of us students also needed to brew up a small batch of beer for a tasting assignment in Sensory. Since there was no available time on the Teaching Brewery systems to brew the Sensory assignment beer, I got permission from Jon Downing, the college brewmaster, to go forth and brew elsewhere.

So early in the morning, I was heading east along the north shore of Lake Ontario towards Toronto, rather than east along the south shore towards the college. Golly, a lot more people drive to Toronto in the morning then drive to the college. And they drive very slowly. And stop. And go. And stop. And go.

"Call-of Brew-ty: Black Hops" version 2.0

“Call-of Brew-ty: Black Hops” version 2.0

I finally got to the brewery and readied the pilot system. First up was a re-creation of “Call of Brew-ty: Black Hops”–regular readers might recall that this was the smoked chipotle black beer I created for Cask Days last October that turned out to be mind-meltingly hot.

There’s no question that due to a small miscalculation when adding the chipotle to the cask last October, the heat was turned up to 11. This time, I tried to dial it down a bit. I also added the smoked chipotle to the boil ten minutes before flame out rather than waiting to add it into the cask of finished beer. This way, I figured I’d have advanced notice if it was still really spicy, since I’d be able to taste it several times on its journey from wort to beer.The verdict? Well, I may have added less chipotle, but adding it to the boil seems to have integrated more capsaicin. Despite my efforts to be a bit more conservative, the wort that went into the fermenter was still pretty “wow!”

As I was cleaning up, a couple of my fellow students arrived  to help make a beer for our Sensory assignment. (In essence, what we have to do is make a beer, use the class as a tasting panel to get their opinion of the beer, then use the data from the tasting panel to recommend whether this beer should be put into production.)

Because the beer isn’t the point of this exercise, we whipped up a British-style pale ale–easy, simple, not too many ingredients.

It was a longer day than usual, but the end result was two different brews fermenting away.

Day 533

February 22, 2013

With all the exams, presentations and assignments this week, it would have been nice to have had a quiet day in the Teaching Brewery bottling  or cleaning kegs. Instead, today was my special assignment day where I got marked as I brewed up my very own beer.

Yes, today was the culmination of all the theory and practice. I arrived this morning clutching my own recipe (complete with hand-crafted calculations), then put together the ingredients and brewed a double batch on the 60-litre pilot systems while Brewmaster Jon Downing watched. Over the next two weeks, I will monitor my infant wort as it grows up and becomes an adult beer. Two weeks from now, after packaging, I will perform a sensory analysis on it, then submit a complete report on the brew day and the resultant beer. All of the above will then be the basis of most of my mark in Specialty Brewing. (A small portion of my final mark will be based on a safety test and my work in the Teaching Brewery on days when I wasn’t brewing.)

And how did I luck into having my special brew day right smack in the middle of mid-term week?

I picked the date.

Yep. Volunteered for it. Didn’t think, “Hey, the week before Reading Week is usually full of exams and assignments.” I simply put my name on the available date, and there it was.

Black IPA

Black IPA on the boil. Mmmmm…

For you brewers out there, my recipe was for 60 litres of a black IPA (or as the chattering classes say, a “Cascadian dark ale”): 17.5 kilo grain bill, mainly pale ale malt, with 1.6 kg of Crystal 20, 800 g of Midnight Wheat and 400 g of Chocolate Malt. Hopping was 75 IBU worth of Amarillo. That much grain in a relatively small system resulted in a ridiculously long sparge–almost two hours. But the result was as black as the devil’s heart, and as bitter as a jilted girlfriend.

Twenty litres of the 110-litre batch will be cask conditioned and served at the college Open House on March 23. (Free samples, come on down!) I haven’t decided how to package the other 90 litres yet. Keg them off and sell them to a local bar? Bottle them under the college’s “Brewmaster” label and sell them in the college beer store? Hmmm…

But plans for world dominance must perforce await–more mid-term exams and presentations tomorrow.

Day 492

January 12, 2013

Group A was back in the Teaching Brewery today. Yay. We are still scheduled to work in the brewery once every three weeks, but this semester, Brewmaster Jon Downing will mark each of us on only one special project: the creation, from start to finish, of a beer. Each student must decide on a style, calculate the alcoholic strength, colour and bitterness, create a recipe, use the 50-litre pilot system sometime this semester to brew a double batch, then follow the brew through fermentation and maturation, deciding on the optimum time to “crash” the fermenter (lower the fermenter temperature to end fermentation and encourage the yeast to go dormant and fall to the bottom of the fermenter). The one factor that we need to keep in mind is that another student will need the fermenter in two weeks for their special brew, so we can’t choose a beer style that requires a maturation time of several months, like a strong Imperial Stout, for instance. No, our beer has to be ready for packaging (and drinking) in two weeks max.

I’m not scheduled to brew my special beer until the end of February, but for those of us who were not brewing today, there was a lot of other work to do in the brewery. Two student beers needed to be packaged, then those fermenters had to be cleaned so they could be used for the two special beers being brewed today. A thousand litres of bitter had to be filtered and carbonated. Four cases of 650 mL bottles had to be labelled and then filled with the bitter, then the remainder of the bitter kegged off. The fermenter that had held the bitter had to be cleaned. Forty or fifty kegs had to be cleaned. A Grundy tank had to be cleaned. There was a problem with hot liquor tank, so it had to be drained and cleaned of scale.

One would think with all that cleaning that I would be very clean at the end of the day, but it was actually quite the opposite.

Day 374

September 16, 2012

When I was a small child, everything in my life was huge. The house I was born in was the size of a castle, my backyard was acres in size, and the neighbourhood stretched for miles. I moved away when I was still very young, and didn’t revisit the area again until I was an adult. Wow, everything had shrunk. My castle was a tiny single-storey bungalow. The backyard was perhaps 25 metres across. The neighbourhood was three or four small streets.

I had the same feeling today walking into the Teaching Brewery–everything had shrunk. Because my summer brewery had equipment five times larger, everything in the Teaching Brewery looked so small and cute.

But it was time to brew beer, no matter what size of system. Actually, this year, we will be mainly concentrating on the small 50-litre pilot systems, demonstrating that we can turn classroom theory into a drinkable batch of beer. We will also be working with much less hands-on supervision–Brewmaster Jon Downing and his assistant will still be there, of course, but mainly as observers.

Like last year, we have been divided into three teams of ten people (A, B & C), with each team in the Teaching Brewery once every three weeks. In addition, each team was split into two 5-person sub-teams, one assigned to pilot system #1, and the other to pilot system #2. (I am on Team A1).

Next semester, we will have the opportunity to demonstrate some brewing creativity, but for this semester, we will be confined to brewing three standard styles on the pilot systems–dry stout, hefeweizen and ordinary bitter–according to a brewing schedule drawn up by Jon Downing.

Last year, Jon provided all the brewing recipes, but this year we will be creating our own recipes. Our challenge will be to both plan a brewing regimen and then brew a beer so that it conforms to the style’s specified parameters for appearance, original gravity, volume, aroma and taste.

We had already submitted recipes last week for the three basic styles, so the first step for Team A1 was to compare all five of our recipes and decide on which one to use, or perhaps whether to bodge together elements from several of the recipes. Because there is limited space to work on the pilot systems, we also had to choose two people to actually brew the beer. (The other three members would be assigned to other tasks in the brewery: brewing First Draft beers on the large system, cleaning tanks and kegs, packaging, or inventorying supplies. If you are thinking, “Hey, I’d rather brew on the pilot system than count bags of grain”, Jon warned us that he would only be marking the efforts of the two people brewing on each pilot system, based his observations of whether the brewers knew what they were doing, if they were working as a team, and how they responded to the various brewing challenges that inevitably arise at the most inopportune moments. So, brew on the pilot system and feel Jon watching your every move, or enjoy a relaxing day cleaning/inventorying/bottling.)

Team A1 was scheduled to brew a hefeweizen today, so we had already compared recipes and had bodged together a Frankenstein. (For the record, 55% wheat malt, some Vienna malt–that was my contribution–and pilsener malt, and a kilo of rice hulls to try to prevent the wheat malt from gumming up the lauter tun.)

I was nominated as one of the two people to brew on our pilot system–yay! Oh wait, this is for marks. Shoot.

Brewing a Hefeweizen

My brewing partner watches our second batch of hefeweizen on the boil.

First problem–we wanted to use Perle hops, but alas, the Teaching Brewery had none on hand, so my partner and I had to quickly recalculate how much Northern Brewer and Hallertau to use as a substitute. Although we were using rice hulls, we decided to further reduce the probability of lautering issues by starting the mash with a “protein rest” at 45°C–this, in theory, prevents the wheat proteins from coagulating. After the protein rest, we would then raise the temperature to a more normal mash temperature.

Whether it was due to the rice hulls or the protein rest, we encountered no lautering issues at all, but we ended our first sparge a bit prematurely based on a small miscalculation on my part, so our first batch was a little low on volume, and the specific gravity was a bit high. On our second batch, we ran out of hot water just as we started to sparge–it seems like everyone in the brewery needed hot water at the same time. Once we had more hot water, we guesstimated an increase to sparge volume which, in theory, should have brought the overall batch back to spec. And it did. Or might have. (It will be hard to say exactly until the beer has finished fermenting. But things looked pretty good at the end of the brew day.)

And of course, my partner and I had to think of a name for our beer. We decided on Vice Populi–“Vice of the People”. (See, “weiss“–German for “wheat”–is a homonym of “vice”, which is a near homonym of  “Voice of the People”, which in Latin is vox populi. Hence Vice Populi.)

Okay, I admit it sounded a lot cleverer at the end of a 9-hour brewing day…

Day 204

April 5, 2012

Although it is still about three weeks from exams, a third of the class–including me–had our first final exam today, in Practical Brewing. (That’s because only a third of us can work in the Teaching Brewery at a time–the other two-thirds of the class will get their turn on the next two Wednesdays.)

Brewmaster Jon Downing split us into two teams, and gave each team a different beer recipe. For the final exam, each team had to make two batches of their assigned beer on one of the small (50-litre) pilot systems, and then document what they had done. However, each team couldn’t just concentrate on just that–as with any brewery, there were many other tasks to get done as well, so it was up to each team to rotate personnel so that everyone got a share of the exam work as well as the other brewery tasks.

Both teams did a good job on their brews despite having to deal with some of the usual problems that happen from time to time. The real problem was transferring the wort to a fermenter. Before the yeast can be pitched, the hot wort has to be cooled down by running it through a heat exchanger on the way to the fermenter. Since there is only one heat exchanger for both pilot systems, and it had to be rinsed and cleaned after each batch was pumped through, it became a real bottleneck. In the end, we didn’t leave the brewery until 7:30 p.m.

An 11-hour day might have made for the longest exam I have ever “written”, but it was also the most enjoyable.

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