Today was my first official day of class, and I am lucky enough to have started off in the brewery. The 24 of us met at 8:30 outside of the teaching brewery in eager anticipation of the class to come. My class is a pretty diverse crowd, although mostly guys we do have four female classmates. A couple of the guys are from the US and one of the women is a student from Japan.
We were met by our teacher John Downing at about 8:45 and let in to the brewery. Here we were given our first assignment, which was to identify some pieces of equipment that were labeled 1-10. We were given about 15 minutes to get our guesses down before moving on, as the assignment is only due on Friday. Next, John talked to us about what we will be learning in the course, how the other brewing classes we are taking will tie in and what previous classes have done. The class was then split into three groups of eight, as this is who we will be brewing with throughout the semester. Due to size constraints in the brewery each group will only be brewing once every three weeks, but we will get a full day in the brewery instead of only a couple of hours. Sadly, I am in group C, so I will only be brewing three weeks from now. We will, however, have plenty of opportunity to volunteer in the brewery in the intermediate weeks, so we won’t go too long without putting in some work! All told this took about an hour and a half before we were free to go.
I was fortunate enough to have been offered the chance to volunteer to do some work in the brewery today, so me and a few other guys stayed behind to be introduced to John’s right hand man, Elliot Herman. Elliot is a graduate of the program and current brewmaster over at Silversmith Brewing in Niagara on the Lake (www.silversmithbrewing.com
). Let me just say, Elliot is a super friendly guy, and he sure as heck knows his stuff.
After being given a run down of what we would be doing for the day, Elliot showed us how a lot of the equipment worked, and we all made fools of ourselves trying to change tri-clamps and move hoses around. My first job was using the labeler, pictured here:
Each 660ml bottle is inserted one at a time and the front and back labels are placed automatically. It may sound like a lot of work, but once you get a good rhythm going it’s effortless.
Next, I cleaned and sanitized bottles and stacked them on the bottle tree to dry:
My kind of Christmas tree!
After doing this for about an hour I switched over to the bottle filling machine, where we would take four bottles at a time and, well, fill them. Also, there was a crowning machine to put the crowns on, one bottle at a time.The filler does not move at lightning speeds, so often there would be a large backlog of bottles waiting to be filled. This gave time to learn how to clean and shank a keg, which is a much more vigorous process than I had expected, involving a large machine and the hope that you didn’t attach the hose wrong or else you will be soaked to the bone in cleaning solutions.
All in all it was a great day, and I am glad I volunteered. I came home with my pants soaked through, my boots full of water and high spirits. I look forward to spending more time in the brewery in the near future.
Tomorrow I have one class, communications. It is at 12:30 and it lasts only an hour, which makes it a pain to drag myself in to the school for. Friday promises to be better though, with more brewing related classes.