Monday, February 28, 2011

Week 3

Monday: The week long study of yeast began. I was excited as this is an area of brewing where I have a lot of interest. We started with an Introduction to Microbiology, then on to Yeast Morphology and Brewing Yeast Characteristics. It was straight up bio-chemistry, but I really enjoy this stuff. It's really amazing the things that happen beyond the scope of the human eye.

Tuesday: After a snowy walk to class we continued the "yeast week" with Yeast Nutrition, Yeast Metabolism, and Yeast Cultures/Propagation. The metabolism part was fascinating. If you are interested in metabolic pathways check this out. We also did a styles tasting where we tasted "American style beers" which started with Michelob and ended with Russian imperial stout.

Wednesday: We studied Yeast- Physical Behavior, Fermenting Operations and Yeast Flavor Compounds. It was mostly a day talking about flocculation. Cool stuff.

Thursday: We covered Yeast Quality Management, Yeast Genetic Characteristics, Yeast Handling/Management, and we had a written assignment where we had to write out the differences between yeast viability and yeast vitality. We then had to write three tests used on both and finally what the "gold standard" test was for both. Then were split into groups where we all compared what we wrote, and collectively put down what we all thought the answers were on a large sheet of paper. Finally the various groups all presented what they had come up with. This was all basically practice for future essay assignments, and group presentations. After class we had our bi-weekly study session at our place.

Friday: We had our weekly test. My "study buddies" and I studied hard for two days this week and Sharif and I studied an extra day. We were all feeling good until we got the test and it felt like of all the stuff we had studied, the test covered very little of it. At first I was kind of mad while taking the test, then I realized there was nothing I could do about it and I needed to just give it my best. I feel like I did alright, but we will see next week. The interesting thing is that almost everyone in the class felt the same way about the test. We covered a lot of material this week and it's damn near impossible to memorize it all. To make maters worse the rest of the day was not easy on the "ol" brain. After feeling pretty mentally drained from the test, we went on to study, Dry Yeast Production and Yeast Nutrients. Then we had two hours of Genetic Techniques: Yeast Identification & Detection of Contaminants. This was absolutely mind numbing. It was was straight up genetics that I  know very little about, and I will probably never do any of these tests myself . While I do fell it is good information to know, it was mostly covering methods that only trained lab personnel could perform, and on incredibly expensive equipment but what can you expect from a school who's parent company is a yeast company. We finished the day/week covering Processing Aids & Cellar Additions. This was a pretty interesting and useful two hours but naturally most of us were spent.

 After class a group of us went straight uptown to Hopleaf. I have been trying to get to this place for awhile, and it was worth the trip. The place was packed but we managed to score a couple of tables for our large group. The beers I had were Netebuk Saison, which was unbelievable, Bockor Cuvèe des Jacobins Rouge, which is probably one of my favorite Flanders Reds, Cantillon Gueuze, which is just heaven in a glass, and finally Brasserie La Binchoise's Belgoo Magus, which is a really nice well balanced Belgian Pale. I really like this style of beer. The best part is all these beers were on tap.

Saturday: Saturday was a day to just relax. We watched some football (soccer),  went and had some brunch and then came home, did some chores and watched a movie....very relaxing.

Sunday: This was another chill out day where we went to brunch, studied for awhile and had an early dinner at Revolution Brewing. I had their First Year Beer which is brewed with dark chocolate and black malts and hopped with Falconer’s Flight hop blend. I have heard of these hops but never tried them in a beer. It was nice. Basically a CDA, mixed with a porter. I also has their Oatmeal Stout, and their Robust Porter. All very well made beers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 2

Week two began by us seeing much warmer temperatures, and new instructors. We got the results from our test last week. I scored an 89% which bums me out. I mis-read a big part of the test and ended up missing a bunch of questions. Oh well I still passed with a B+.
Monday: We started the week studying Mashing Enzymes, and Mashing Techniques & Wort Composition with Ray Daniels. I have taken other brewing classes under Ray and really enjoy his teaching.

"old-school" mash mixing
 Tuesday: We had a field trip to Briess Malting Facility in Chilton, Wisconsin. It was a very informative trip. Their malt house is pretty old but they sure do know what they are doing. They were roasting Caramel-40 while were there. It was really neat to pull a sample from the drum roaster and taste the malt. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos inside they're facilities. The bus ride back was filled with a lot of beer drinking, but we still managed to get some good conversation in as well.
Outside of the malthouse
Wednesday: We studied Adjunct Types, Malt Handling & Milling, Cereal Cookers, Lautering, and Mash Filters with John Mallett of  Bells Brewing. That night Sharif and I managed to get some good studying in which was nice.

Thursday: We started off the day doing Brewing Calculations. A fare amount of them were mixing formula's which involved algebra. I haven't purposely done algebra since 1994 so it was a bit of a struggle for me. We also moved through them very quickly and didn't really take time to discuss why were doing what we doing. We also studyed Wort Boiling, wrote a practice essay question on the grain composition and mash schedule of a Bavarian hefeweizen, and finished of the school day with a styles tasting of English, Irish, and Scottish  beers . After class a small group of us went back to our place to study for the test and re-work some of the math equations. I feel a lot better about them now. We will see how the test goes tomorrow.

Fullers ESB
Friday: We took our second test first thing in morning. I felt pretty good about it. I know I missed at least two questions though. We then studied Wort Clarification, Wort Cooling & Aeration, Brewery Effluent, Brewhouse Cleaning & Sanitation, and Brewhouse Lab Analysis.
After class a  few of us decided we wanted to to check out Haymarket Brewing. It is the new creation of former Rock Bottom brewer Pete Crowley. We were geeking out on their draft line, and Pete came by and let us take a look at  how they set it up.They have a regulator to control keg pressure, and one to control line pressure, so they can completely empty the line without losing beer. He ended up comping us for a bunch of food and drinks which was pretty cool. Stand-up guy. They had a fantastic pilsner and a really nice saison as well. If you are ever in Chicago, I suggest checking this place out.

Inside the walk-in at Haymarket
  Saturday: There was a beer festival at the Rock Bottom Brewery called the Polar Beer Fest. It was basically 15 "strong/winter" beers from area breweries. They held it on the roof and the view was fantastic. The weather was cold but sunny. In a cruel twist of fate, the best beer there had foaming problems and it was hard to get the servers to pour it for you. I think the lightest beer had 7.5% a.b.v, and the strongest was 12%. We stayed for 4 hours and had a great time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 1

Well week 1 is over and done with. The weather in Chicago has been snowy and cold. My roommate Sharif and I have managed to get out and enjoy some great food, as well as grabbing some groceries and beer to take back to our awesome apartment. Here is a break down of what we studied so far:
Monday: Introduction,  Barley Structure/Morphology and Barley Evaluation for Malting.

Tuesday: Steeping, Biochemical Changes in Malting, Germination and Malt Kilning
Wednesday: more Malt Kilning, Finished malt, Malt Specifications, Specialty Malts and we closed the day with our first sensory Training session(more on that later)
Thursday: We were supposed to do hops today but sadly our instructor Mike Babb had a family emergency and had to fly out that night so we did Brewing Water Composition and Brewing Water Adjustments. We did a water comparison between two different bottled waters. It was interesting to taste the difference in mineral levels.

Friday: We had our first quiz, I won't know how I did until Monday, though I feel good about it. We then  moved on to Hop Cultivation, Hop Utilization & Analysis and Hop Products with Mike's co-worker Brian Buffin at Kalsac Advanced Hop Products. He passed around some advanced hop products for us to smell and check out.

 We also did a "hop rub", which is where you take either whole or pellet hops in your hands and rub them to warm them up and to break open the lupulin glands. The lupulin glands hold some of the essential oils, so by doing the "rub" you can get to smell the nice hop aromatics.

We finished off the week by heading over to Piece Brewing for some beer and pizza. They had a smoked porter that fantastic.

It has been pretty exhausting but I am having a good time. There is a lot of information coming very fast but I feel I am keeping up fairly well. The walk to and from school has helped counter the sitting in class for 8 hours a day. The weather has gone from snowy at the beginning of the week, to really cold in the middle of the week, to sunny and warmer now.
Next week the intensity is supposed to pick up. We will have a field trip to Briess Malting so that should be interesting. A few classmates and I are planning a few weekend trips to tour breweries that are a little farther away like New Glarus, and Three Floyds.
 For now I am enjoying a relaxing day before more studying for next week.