Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beer Spoilage Organisms

It seems like every Thursday I nearly forget to write a blog post... Probably because it is always a big study day before a test.
Today was a harder day than the others this week. We talked about beer spoilage organisms, how to detect them, what they produce, and what effects they have on beer. It has always been funny to me when people say that you have to be extremely clean when you brew or else it could make you sick. I've always told people that you will only get sick from drinking too much of it... Just like you would from any non-contaminated beer.
Today, we brushed upon that subject when our professor reassured us that no known human pathogens can survive in beer. For several reasons, beer is a poor environment for pathogens, or any bacteria for that matter. Low pH levels, carbonation, alcohol, and the preservative nature of hops all help to make beer a relatively stable product biologically. Unfortunately, there is still some bacteria and wild yeast that can effect beer flavor, aroma, and body. So while the contaminants will not make you sick, they can make beer taste gross.
After class, I had the opportunity to talk with my professors one on one. We got to discuss various issues that I have encountered at Blue Pants and how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It seems like every day, I learn something new that we can improve, or sometimes, change altogether. I'm only a third of the way done with the course, but I have learned a LOT in the last month.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Today was a great example of brewing theory. Over the last week, we have talked about how to improve shelf life. One professor told us how filtering damages beer stability, another told us that filtering could slightly improve beer stability, and another one said that sterile filtering is an absolute must for bottled beers. Clearly, there is no right answer. You can look around at great craft breweries throughout the USA and see the different schools of thoughts. Bells, for example, does not filter or even use fining agents in their ales. They do filter their lagers. Some breweries, like Sam Adams, use a very fine filter and filter out even the smallest particles out of their beers. Some use coarse filters and get out the larger yeast cells, while leaving behind the small cells. And then there are even a few that filter out everything, and then add yeast back in right before bottling.

So now within my group of classmates staying in one apartment, we have six brewers with six different opinions on filtering.

At the end of the day we had another palate training session. We used Budweiser as our control beer and tasted 10 different flavor compounds. We had diacetyl (butter taste), Iso-amyl-acetate (banana ester), acetaldehyde (green apple), Eugenol (spicy phenol), fusel (rancid alcohol), boozy (Budweiser spiked to 10% ABV), and a few others.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gushing, Color, Maturation, Yeast Harvesting

Today was another long day. It has seemed a little repetitive since we are going back over a lot of the same topics we talked about last week, just more in depth. The most interesting part of the conversation came early in the day when we talked about gushing and the unpredictability of gushing occurring in bottles. If you have been drinking craft beer for a while, surly at some point you have opened a gushing bottle (it might have even been one of our early bottled batches which we tracked down and solved). Gushing is what we call it when you open a bottle and beer starts shooting out. In extreme cases, you can lose over half of a bottle of beer to gushing.
The interesting part of the conversation came when our professor told us that throughout history, there have been instances of gushing occurring as an epidemic. One of the first reports of this was in 1924 when many breweries throughout Germany suffered from inexplicable gushing issues. Another epidemic occured in 1937 throughout many regions of Europe and the United States. It has happened many more times since then as well. The theory is that it is an unknown problem with malted barley that has caused the epidemics. We know that fursarium on barley can cause a toxin which creates gushing, but this is not what happened in these cases. Hopefully with modern farming and malting techniques, this will no longer be an issue, but it is interesting to wonder... When will we have the next epidemic?

After gushing we moved on to storing and aging beer, and we talked about yeast harvesting. I can't wait to bring all this new yeast knowledge back to Blue Pants and make a few changes to our yeast handling practices.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beer Stability

Trying to write today's blog post is a bit of a challenge. Quite honestly, today sucked. We talked all day about beer stability and the different ways that beer can go bad. The bulk of the conversation revolved around "Don't expose beer to oxygen."

The day actually started off with an interesting conversation. We touched on how fermentation parameters can effect beer stability. Basically, any secondary yeast metabolites such as esters, fusel alcohols, and aldehydes will age quicker than beers with lower concentrations of by products. We also talked about how filtering can actually make a beer LESS stable (counterintuitive from everything that most of us know about filtered beer) and how bottle conditioned beer can lead to a much greater life shelf as a result of yeast taking in any oxygen that might be dissolved in beer. As you may have guess by now, oxygen is one of the biggest problems that leads to spoiled beer.

As the professor was speaking, I began to realize how recipes, in addition to brewing practices, can effect staling in beer. This was never something I had to worry about as a homebrewer, but now that we bottle at Blue Pants, the oxidizing effects of various ingredients will definitely come into play as we develop future recipes. We also talked about a few simple tests that we can do in the brewery to see how our beer ages. We have already been doing some of this at work, but I look forward to doing these tests with greater effectiveness when I get back.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Test Day

It looks like this will be a typical Friday post... Mentally drained, I will be keeping it short. Today's test was significantly more difficult than the others. Talking to my classmates, it sounded like several people were saying that they would be happy if they managed a passing grade. This was the first test where I wished that there were no true or false questions. It was easy to second guess answers, particularly when talking about secondary yeast metabolites. I feel like with all essay and short answers, the test would have been much less confusing.

After the test, we had a little bit of an easy day, talking about dry yeast processes, yeast DNA, and processing aids such as Irish Moss and fermenter fining agents. After the lecture, I had a good conversation with Siebel's Vice President about distilling and small business plans in the bier stube. I think this is the most beneficial part of attending Siebel... Staying after class, drinking a few beers, and talking with professors and classmates one on one. I have learned so much this week, I am mentally spent. It is time for a beer... Or 10.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Yeast Handling

After what seemed like week of brewing yeast theory, we finally got into the chapter that I was looking forward to most tody... Yeast handling pratices. Yeast handling I the one area that most craft breweries need to improve. Unfortunately, in breweries yeast handling practices are normally glossed over in favor of production speed. It is the biggest area that we have improvd on at Blue Pants in the last 6 months, and still the area of the brewery that needs the most work.

So I read this chapter several times before class today and I went into the lecture armed with questions. The professor and I wound up having a great discussion about how to harvest more yeast from the fermenter while it is still viable, concerns about our pure yeast cultures from our supplier, and he answered some of my questions about setting up a personal yeast bank. I can't wait o get to the applied brewing techniques module so I can do some lab work with a professional and learn how to put all this information to use back home.

After we finished up our last bit of lectures on yeast, we talked about how to analyze beer using equipment that is practical for craft brewer's to own and operate. The most useful for me was when we talked about how to use a spectrophotometer to analyze color and buttering units. We have a test tomorrow, and I have quite a lot of studying to get done in order to feel ready.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Yeast!

The subjects keep getting more in depth. I almost forgot to write my blog post today since I've been studying so much ever since class ended for the day. It got pretty intense talking about all the different ways that yeast produces ethanol and how yeast flocculates. One thing that I hadn't realized was that when yeast creates esters, it then will break down esters into alcohol. It was especially interesting to talk about the different secondary metabolites of yeast today since I began to make connections to how fermentation effects distilling. After talking about ester production, I began to understand a lot better why a distiller makes cuts the way they do.

For example, ethyl acetate is the main ester produced by brewer's yeast. Ethanol is the main primary metabolite of yeast and is the main thing that a distiller wants to collect from their still. Ethyl acetate evaporates at a very close temperature to alcohol and it creates a solvent like flavor. If anyone has ever seen a distillation and tasted heads, the main thing that is getting collected in the first bit of collection is ethyl acetate. So, if you can control the production of ethyl acetate in fermentation, than your "heads" will be less volume, leaving you more "hearts" or pure ethanol to collect. This same thing applies to production of "higher alcohols" (alcohols that burn your throat). These alcohols have a higher evaporation temperature, so they come out in the tails of distillation.

After the interesting discussion of yeast flavors, the class lecture began to be extremely difficult to follow. It is starting to make sense now after studying for several hours, but it was a real struggle in class trying to make sense of why Stoke's Law doesn't apply to yeast and trying to make sense of the different forces that affect the ability of yeast to settle in the fermenter.

I believe it is time for a beer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Yeast and American Styles Tasting

Today was a rough day. After a long day of biology yesterday, today we talked more about biochemistry of yeast. The lecture was long and dry, mostly talking about NAD and ATP and how sugars are metabolized and turned into alcohol. I spent a large portion of the day tracing cycles to try and make sense of what was going on. Luckily, I was not the only one having trouble. After the morning though, things did get much more interesting after lunch.

After lunch, we talked more about the practical side of yeast and yeast propagation. We discussed how to isolate yeast cells and how to grow pure yeast cultures. I have always had an idea to brew a beer using all Alabama ingredients, and after our lecture today, I feel like I have enough knowledge of the propagation procedure to grow some yeast cultures and see if I can cultivate any yeast that is living in the wild from Alabama to make this beer. I am really looking forward to actually doing some of this lab work when we get to the applied brewing techniques portion of the module.

After we were done with our main lecture for the day, we had a palate training session using American beer styles. I think my favorite beer of the day was the Lagunitas Pale Ale. It was extremely hoppy for a pale ale, and there was no mistaking that the beer was very unbalanced, but it was such a great hop flavor, the balance didn't bother me one bit. I think I'll need to seek out a few 6 packs of that beer since I don't think I've seen it back home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Intro to Yeast!

Today was a bit of a milestone for us at Siebel. We started the second module of the diploma program and we began talking about yeast. Our professor is Graeme Walker from Scotland. He is very entertaining during lectures. He seems to really enjoy making fun of anything that isn't from Scotland. He definitely knows yeast very well and he seems to enjoy teaching.

We started off with a general review of microbiology. We talked about the differences between Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes and various types of yeast. After that, we jumped into yeast morphology, yeast reproduction, and different types of beer spoiling organisms.

One of the interesting points that Dr. Walker made today came when he told us not to call beers with spoilage organisms "infected." He was very insistent that we never use that word and instead we refer to those beers as "contaminated." He placed a great deal of importance on brewery cleanliness and lab work. He even went so far as to say, "If you don't have a microscope in your brewery, I don't have much hope that your beer will be worth drinking." I think that was a wake up call for a lot of the brewers in the class. Even though I do yeast counts and viability tests, I realized after today that we should be doing a lot more work with the microscope at work than what we are doing. It is not enough to just check the brewing yeast under the microscope. When I get back home, I will be making sure to begin doing more gram staining to check for bacteria.

This part of the course is what I have been looking forward to the most and I particularly look forward to talking more about yeast harvesting, repitching, and storing. That said, I also believe that this will be the most challenging part of the program and that even with my group's long study hours, we are going to be staying up even later for the next two weeks to try to stay ahead of the professor. Speaking of studying... I believe it's time to get back to work.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Test 2 and Brewhouse Considerations

I think today might have been the hardest day to get through so far. After studying late into the night, it was very difficult to wake up this morning and get excited about taking a test. I think I did OK, but immediately after handing my test in, I realized that I made some stupid mistakes. I'm not really used to the idea of "over studying."

After the test, we discussed wort separation, cooling, and brewhouse maintenance. I would write more, but to be honest, I'm really looking forward to going out, having some deep dish pizza, beers, and sleeping in. Cheers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day Before Test 2- Lautering, Brewing Calculations, Boiling, and Sensory Training

The days have officially run together. I suppose that isn't a surprise since for the last 2 weeks I have been talking about beer for 14+ hours per day. When I was trying to write the title for this blog post, I asked my roommates to help me remember what we went over today. We all started throwing out topics that were covered between Monday and today. Maybe part of the reason for that was because we just studied the 15 chapters of review questions that will be covered on tomorrow's test, or the act of waking up at 6:00 a.m. to study every morning before going to class at 7:00, sitting in class until 4:30, and then eating dinner while studying until 10:00 p.m. every night is starting to really wear down on us mentally. I think we all knew this course would be a challenge, but I don't any one of us knew exactly how mentally challenging this would be.

Today we started off with brewing calculations. The main formula we use in the brewery is a very simple blending formula {A(a)+B(b)=C(c)}. However, when we started getting into questions about removing beer of certain strength and replacing that volume with beer of another strength to get to the same volume with a new percentage of alcohol, most of us were feeling pretty lost. Luckily, John was patient with us and helped break it down. It felt like being back in an algebra class where you know what you are looking for, but you don't know how to find it.

We then moved on to lautering, talking about different techniques to avoid polyphenol and tannin extraction, and talking about the constituents of extract. Typically, in a brewery this whole process involves a lot of waiting and it typically takes an hour to an hour and a half... We managed to talk about it for about 3 hours.

Next, we moved on to a lecture on boiling and the various effects that occur as a result of boiling wort. We also talked about different types of boilers and the advantages and disadvantages of different boiling systems.

We ended the day with a bit of a lighter session. Keith Lemcke lead us in a sensory/palate training. All the beers we tried today were Irish, Scottish, or English styles and they were examples of classic styles. One funny thing Keith said was that the use of Peated Malt is common and accepted in Scotch Ales (I'm looking at you Jim T.). This palate training session was much more enjoyable than last week when we drank Budweiser spiked with various off flavors. Now, it is time to hit the books again as I prepare for our second test tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Adjuncts and Mashing/Lautering

Today was one of the more interesting lectures that we have had so far. Our teacher for today was John Mallett from Bell's. Our topics spanned adjunct brewing, milling, mashing, lautering, and mash filters.

One of the things that I found most interesting was that in a class of 40, most of the students being craft brewers, that we had the director of operations of one of the best breweries in America teaching us about how to use adjuncts (any source of carbohydrates in wort that doesn't come from malted barley such as corn, rice, oats, rye, wheat, etc.). It made me think back to the "I'm a Craft Brewer" video that Stone uploaded a few years ago (

The bit about "I don't use corn in my beer" and "I don't use rice in my beer" always stuck out to me as being a little bit blind to the benefits of using adjuncts in moderation. Particularly, adjuncts can be used to improve shelf stability, produce clearer beer, and yes, lighten the body of beer without adding too much flavor. It is worth noting that the best selling craft beer in Wisconsin (Spotted Cow) is brewed with a significant amount of corn. It is also worth noting that New Glarus is the 17th largest brewery in America and they only distribute in one state. I'd be willing to bet that any of the breweries featured in that video would love to have that kind of demand.

This is not to say that all beers should be brewed with corn, but rather that craft brewers should probably stop shooting themselves in the foot by saying "I will not brew with adjuncts" and rather we should be open to using all the tools available to us to make the highest quality beer possible. One of those tools could potentially be the moderate use of adjuncts. I know I personally would love for my beers to be clearer without filtering and have better shelf life. And to the point of using adjuncts to lighten the body of a beer without adding flavor: What do you think light belgian candy syrup does for Belgian Triples? I don't know of anyone that says that they will not drink Belgian Triples because they use sucrose to lighten the body of the beer without adding flavor.

After the adjuncts discussion, we moved on to milling and mashing. We began to do our first brewing calculations today when we were talking about mashing (mostly talking about the mixing formula and how to calculate flow rates using differential pressures). John was a great teacher, very animated, and very knowledgeable. Luckily, he is going to continue to teach tomorrow and it sounds like he will be back later in the program to teach another module. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Briess Tour!

Firstly today, I would like to apologize for any typos in this blog post. I am currently typing on my iPad from a bouncy bus after doing more taste testing than I would normally do.

Today was a much more fun day than anticipated. We rode up to Chilton, Wisconsin for a tour of the Briess acting facilities. I can't disclose too much about the trip because we signed a non-disclosure agreement before the tour. Apparently, maltsters are very protective of their processes. On the way up, we had 3 hours, during which most people either studied or slept. I opted to study the previous two days of curriculum. It was nice to have some alone studying time to focus on enzymes that I haven't paid attention to in the past.

When we got to Chilton, we stopped at a community college to have a lecture on specialty malts before visiting the maltster in person. I was fortunate to be in a group with the head of malting operations, so we got to go into more depth than the other groups did. It was fascinating to see the steeping vessels, germination vessels, and the kilns and roasters. We got to sample some freshly roasted caramel 120 as well as some germinating two-row.

After the tour, we had a Q&A with the Briess staff. My question pertained to malt substitutions and how closely related a blend of caramel 20 and caramel forty would be to Caramel 30...the answer was  "pretty close." However, caramel 60 and caramel 20 might not equal caramel 40. The description related to groups of caramel malts containing similar characteristic flavor with different colors. When I have more time, I look forward to making a blog post dedicated to this discussion.

We are on our way back to Chicago now, with a few coolers of beer to keep us entertained on the way back home. Cheers!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Malting Enzymes and Mash Techniques

After an awesome weekend, we were back at class this morning. We started out finding out our grades for the week (I felt pretty good to get a 97%) and reviewing our quiz questions. To our surprise, our instructor for today was Ray Daniels, author of Designing Great Beers. If you are a home brewer and you don't own this book, you are missing out.

Ray was a great teacher, lecturing on mash enzymes and mashing techniques. He made it very clear to us today that we do not make beer, but rather we manufacture wort... Yeast makes beer. We talked a lot about how starches and protein are built and how enzymes break them down. We discussed advantages and disadvantages to different types of mashing (single infusion, double decoction, triple decoction, etc.) and we touched on how you can get the advantages of triple decoctions while doing a single infusion by altering your recipes. Hopefully, we will get another chance to learn from Ray when we talk more about recipe development in a few weeks. For now, the class is excited about our field trip tomorrow to Briess and then we have John Mallet set to be our teacher for the rest of the week.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 5- First Test and Water Chemistry

Last night and this morning really have blurred together at this point in the day. Today we had our first test, and although I felt really well prepared, I was also very nervous. Talking to my classmates, it appears that I am not the only one that only slept for a few hours last night. I stayed up as late as I could handle last night, and then woke up about three hours before the test and resumed studying. The test did wind up being about what was expected... 35 questions, mostly fill in the blank with a few short answers. Getting the first test out of the way was a huge relief for all of us.

After the test, we jumped right back in to lectures on water chemistry. From what I understand, Ray Daniels normally teaches this portion, but he is teaching us in a few weeks about mash chemistry, so Mike Babb volunteered to teach the water chemistry portion. Mike is very obviously passionate about brewing and teaching. I do think with most other teachers, the class would have been asleep by the end of the morning lecture. Even with Mike, I still did see a few people nodding off a bit (or as Tony with the Moustache puts it: Bobbing for Dicks).

Mike did show us some real world problems that he has encountered with brewing water before and showed us how he fixed them. We talked a lot about brewing salts, using historical brewing areas as examples for different types of water. We looked at Burton-Upon-Trent, Munich, and Pilsen. I'm looking forward to taking a night off from studying and going to the Map Room here in Chicago with classmates.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 4- Hops!!!

Today was BY FAR the most fun and interesting day we have had. Talking to my classmates, this seems to be the way that everyone felt. We began talking about my personal favorite raw material: hops.

Our teacher for today and tomorrow was Mike Babb from Kalsec. For those not familiar with Kalsec products, they are the makers of advanced hop products, such as hop extracts. The extracts that they have developed have different qualities that brewers require in beer. Some of them are purely for aroma, while others are for bitterness. The benefit of the hop extracts is that they have the ability to be stored for much longer times without deteriorating than traditional hopping methods (pellets and whole leaf). In addition, they can be made to be light proof (say goodbye to skunked beers in clear bottles), and they can be added after fermentation to fine tune bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

In addition to talking about hop products, we discussed how hops are pelletized, how to store hops, and the different chemical reactions that occur when acids are isomerized in wort. We also talked about off-aromas in hops that can let us know when our hops are know longer suitable for brewing (the main one that people can easily smell is the old cheese aroma sometimes found in oxidized hops) and at the end of the day we did a "hand rub" evaluation.

The idea behind the hand rub is that you grab a handful of hops, rub them together in between your palms to create friction and release aromas, and smell the hops to try to detect any "off" aromas. We did the test with Citra (Very citrusy and floral), Pallisade (my favorite of the group, it had a unique apricot aroma), Crystal (very noticeably oxidized), Liberty (earthy and perfume like), Simcoe (Piney and White Grapefruit, obviously it was a high quality crop as there was absolutely no "Cat Pee" aroma) and German Hallertau (Spicy, Earthy, and also oxidized). 

After the hand rub, we were done for the day and most of the class gathered in the Bierstube. While there, we had the opportunity to taste hop extracts and see their effect on finished beer. I added a small amount of 4 different extracts to samples of a Kolsch (Reisdorf). The hop extracts tasted surprisingly like what you would expect hop pellets to taste like. We had a dry hop example, a bitterness example, and a hop flavor aroma. The flavor and aroma were dead on for what you would think hops added to a boil or fermenter would taste like, while the bitter extract tasted very clean and didn't leave a lingering bitterness on the tongue.

We have our first test coming up tomorrow morning, so it is time to hit the books. I anticipate a late night of studying.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beer Review- Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

Bottled on Date: 12/11/13
I'm excited to try this beer after Jim Trollinger told me about it a few months ago.

From Firestone Walker's website: "Our flagship brew highlights barrel-fermented batches from our patented Firestone Union blended with beer fermented in stainless steel.  It opens with a biscuity toasted malt aroma and a hint of oak and vanilla.  Pale malts create a smooth malty middle with ribbons of caramel, English toffee and toasted oak.  A tribute to English pales traditionally fermented in cask."

Appearance: Brilliantly clear, Dark Copper Color, One finger head, off white, with good retention/lacing. It would be very difficult to find a prettier beer than this.

Aroma: Slightly nutty aroma, a little bit of breadiness, and maybe a slight oak aroma, followed by slightly woody, earthy hop aroma.

Taste: Biscuit malt, slight caramel, balanced by hoppy bitterness, and fading to an oaky, toast, and vanilla flavor. I'm thinking the toast flavor/aroma is related to the use of chocolate malt in this beer. Really a pretty complex development of flavors. The bitterness is the last taste, but it does not linger, and finishes very clean. Possibly the most well-balanced beer I've ever had.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium-high carbonation.

Overall: Probably the best Bitter I've ever had. I'm regretting only buying two bottles of this. Due to its balance and clean finish, I find it to be very drinkable. It's really probably a good thing now that I think about it that I only have two bottles on hand. It might be hard to stop grabbing bottles out of the fridge if I had a full six pack.

Day 3- Specialty Malts & Sensory Evalutation

Today was by far the most fun day so far. I woke up still feeling pretty overwhelmed from yesterday, but we did an extended review to start class today. Once again, I surprised myself with how much I had actually learned. I think at the end of these long days, my brain just has so many different thoughts that I can't think of any one specific thing that I've learned.

After the review, we got into specialty malting. It was a nice discussion about how two specialty malts from different maltsters are actually very different, not only in flavor, color and aroma, but also in the way that they are produced. It's common to hear people say that Caramel and Crystal malts are the same thing. What we were taught today though is that crystal malts are kilned at higher temperatures for shorter amounts of time in order to reach the same lovibond (color) as caramel malts, which are kilned at lower temperatures for longer amounts of time. We'll get more in depth with this when we tour Briess Malting on Tuesday, but the general consensus is that crystal malts will tend to have a more pronounced, harder taste than the equivalent caramel malts.

After lunch was the fun part of the day. We moved on to our first sensory evaluation course of the day. During the lecture, we poured 2 ounce samples of Budweiser beers that had been spiked with various compounds that are considered off flavors from raw materials. Amongst them, we had D.M.S. (tastes like cream corn), overly bitter (25 IBU's added to Budweiser which is typically 8 IBU's), skunked (self explanatory), and others which were all pretty disgusting. The idea with the training is that it can help us to identify off flavors in our own breweries and determine where they come from. It gets me excited to bring some of this knowledge back to Blue Pants and train a tasting panel. Some people are more sensitive to certain off flavors than other people, so it is important to have a full panel, with ratings for each member to know how good each individual is at identifying the various off flavors.

After class, we had some rare free time so my roommates and I made the trip to Binny's. Binny's is an awesome bottle shop with some great prices. I picked up 20 beers to start doing daily reviews. In the future, I may have to be a bit more conservative... Carrying a heavy box of beer on a bus was not as good of an idea as I thought it would be when I made the purchase.

Day 2

After the intensity of the course on the first day, I began to feel a bit nervous about how difficult this program would be. It was very reassuring to get to the morning review of the previous day and find that I could in fact answer the questions poised by the professor. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of information that I had been able to retain from the previous day's cram session. After a one hour review, we jumped right in with day two. Topics include: Steeping, Germinating, Biochemisty of Malting (Wishing I had paid more attention in college), and Kilning.

The lecture followed the same pattern as the day before. Right when I felt comfortable with the ease of the subject, our professor ramped up the difficulty... This time I was prepared for it though (It's not like we could talk about barley sitting in water for 2 straight hours without encountering some more advanced science). We discussed the different types of vessels used for steeping, the metabolic processes that occur during steeping barley, the Citric Acid Cycle, the effects of temperature/time on water uptake and germination, and about 4 hours worth of lecture on enzymes (alpha-amylase, beta-amylase, and beta limit dextrinase) and how they break down starches into sugars.

8 hours of studying later and it was time for bed. 6 hours later, we were ready to wake up and go back to class.

First Day of School!

This entry is a few days late, so I'm playing catch up... I should be up to date after today.

DAY ONE- Gone are the days when I would walk outside, take pictures on the front step of my parent's house, get on a bus, and anxiously await my mom's first day of school cake. When I woke up on an air mattress this morning, it took a few minutes to realize that I was in Chicago, rooming with 5 other guys in an apartment right next to Wrigley Field, it was 13 degrees outside, and that I would be beginning the most intense classes that a brewer can imagine, beginning today. The 6 of us talked about what we were expecting from the program, and to be honest, none of us really knew what it was that we were expecting. We were all somewhat nervous and anxious, but most of all we were excited to get to class and find out what the class would be like. After a 15 minute train ride and a 20 minute walk across icy sidewalks, we arrived at the campus.

The course began with an introduction of our professors, followed by an introduction of all the students. There are about 40 of us for now, though a few will be done after doing the 6 week Associates of Brewing Technology program. We have brewers from breweries of all sizes and even a few homebrewers that are looking to get a foot in the door to the craft brewing industry. 

After introductions, we jumped right in to course material. For the first day, we covered the history of barley, where barley is grown, disease concerns for barley, and barley structure and morphology. For the first three hours leading up to lunch, we seemed to breeze right through the lecture. We discussed the region where barley was first cultivated (The region known as the Fertile Crescent in the Near East), where U.S. barley is grown (North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho primarily) and the world production of barley.

During our lunch hour we got comfortable in the student's only Bierstube. We have a room where students can gather for lunch, hanging out, and, naturally, beer tastings (samples are kept to a minimum at lunch as we still have 3 hours of lecture after lunch each day). Everyone was in good spirits thinking that the first hours of lecture were easy to understand, and we had learned some interesting information.

After lunch, we got right back to the lecture. The difficulty level shot up immediately after lunch. As we began to talk about the structure of barley, morphology, and barley breeding. We discussed in greater detail the challenges of growing barley, how various diseases effect barley, crop rotation, and barley evaluation. It was immediately apparent that weeknights would be dedicated to intense studying at the apartment. At the end of a brain frying lecture, the class gathered for a quick beer before heading home. I was glad to find out that I was not the only one feeling a little lost at the end of the first day. By 11:00 that night, after studying for 4 hours with my roommates, we were all feeling pretty good about the material we had covered. We realized that if we want to really absorb the insane amount of information we are having thrown at us, we would need to get ahead in reading and note taking, and be prepared with questions before new lectures. It's looking like a long 12 weeks of studying ahead!

Siebel Intro

In May 2012, I was hired by the Blue Pants Brewery. Since that day, I have been trying to further my career in brewing at Blue Pants. This quest has brought me to the Siebel Institute of Technology where I am attending the World Brewing Academy International Diploma Program. Over the next couple of weeks, I will try to keep up with an account of all the experiences that the program provides. I look forward to making a detailed account of what we learn, the beers we drink, the places we go, and the things we see. Stay tuned. Cheers!