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Aug 19

Mastering the science of beer

Posted on Aug 19 By: Tamara Leigh

Dr. H.J. (Tom) Thompson, left, Olds College president and Dr. Steve Hudson, right, acting president of Niagara College toast to the new brewing program.  Credit: Noel West/Olds College
Western Canada’s only brewmaster program and teaching brewery is coming to the heart of barley country.

In April, Olds College announced that they are partnering with Niagara College to expand their two-year Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program to make it truly national in scope.

“When we created our Canadian Food and Wine Institute, our objective was to create a Canadian presence focused on food, wine and beer, and academic programming that can serve as a model for applied education,” said Dr. Steve Hudson, acting president of Niagara College. “We are delighted that Olds College approached us to establish this collaborative relationship.

“The program has elements of agriculture, business and hospitality. It is an exceptional program, and will only grow stronger drawing on Olds’ strong agricultural background and Niagara’s strengths in hospitality.”

Peter Johnston-Berresford is the program co-ordinator for the brewmaster program at Olds College. He spoke about the vision and opportunities the program will create.

“The new brewmaster program reflects a natural progression for the educational process here at Olds College because we are looking at taking raw ingredients and adding value to them,” he said. “This place is well known for being a centre of education for agriculture, and brewing is a logical extension.”

He added that grain products from Alberta are shipped around the world for use in beer.

“This is like action central for malting barley,” he said.

The Olds College teaching brewery will be housed in the Pomeroy Inn and Suites at Olds College, a hotel and conference centre.

It is expected to be ready for the first class of students in September 2013. The facility will include a 2,300-square foot commercial-scale brewery that will produce up to 100,000 litres of beer per year for the public market. It will also house a pilot brewery where students and industry will be able do trials in small batches and experiment with different styles of beers.

Courses will include brewing and production experience, microbiology and computer applications—but it’s not all science and spreadsheets.

“Brewing is a science and an art,” said Johnston-Berresford. “We want students to develop an appreciation for the multilayered textures, flavours and mouth feel. That’s where the art happens.

“We are trying to turn out people who are top of their trade, have the training to take them where they want to go and are capable of turning out a product that is in great demand, not just any beer.”

News of the program has been wellreceived by the brewing industry. The increasing popularity of microbreweries, the growth of local breweries like Big Rock and the continued strength of players like Labbatt have created a significant demand for trained brewers.

“We’ve had one of the major players already say they would hire all of our graduates,” said Johnston-Berresford.

While not every graduate coming out of the program will aspire to be a master brewer, Johnston-Berresford is confident the program will equip the students with the education and experience they need to pursue a career in the industry at many levels.

“In terms of opportunities for students, they may be in sales, product development, brewing, research or marketing,” he said. “The idea is not to spill out 24 students who are going to be brewers every year, but to serve the industry.”

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