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Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching Brewery Grand Opening Celebrations - Niagara College

On Wednesday April 13th, the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, the first of its kind in Canada, celebrated their official Grand Opening with a cask tapping, Brewmasters Lunch and Dinner, seminars on growing hops and brewery sustainability, tastings and more. It was a great day for the Canadian brewing industry and it was a privilege to attend the days festivities.

I've written about the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program on here numerous times since I first ventured down to the campus, so I won't bore you again with the details about the program, but let me say that it has been a success from the very beginning, and the grand opening showcased the best of the first year program.

After arriving to the beautiful campus shortly after 11am, a short tasting in the brewery's retail store (separate building) was in order. A number of us went through a Kristal Wit (yes, Wit), Rauchbier, Gluten Free beer, Pilsner and a Porter. With the exception of the Gluten Free beer, all were quite well done and the nodding of the heads from other beer writers in the room showed they also received them nicely.

There were some handshakes and some "how ya doing's" before heading into the dining area for the Brewmasters Lunch. Three courses matched with three different beers and without going into detail, they were all exceptional, especially the Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout by Muskoka Cottage Brewery and the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Read Jordan St. John's blog, St. John's Wort, for his thoughts on the food pairings for both lunch and dinner.

After lunch there were a couple of seminars to sit through before the cask tapping to mark the official opening. The first seminar was presented by Mike Driscoll from Harvest Hop located in Guelph, ON. Driscoll presented some interesting information about commercial hop farms in Ontario and provided some industry numbers and some historical Canadian hop growing statistics. *Interesting fact - over 20 commercial hop growers are operating in Ontario today*

Steve Beauchense, co-founder of Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. in Vankleek Hill was the next presenter, firing up a powerpoint presentation on Brewery Sustainability while handing out some samples  of various Beau's product. Steve showed examples of why Beau's is a leader in the Ontario brewing industry in everything from social media to packaging, charitable work, environmental efforts, employee relations and more.

When the samples were finished and the presentation complete it was back outside for the cask tapping. Niagara College President, Dr. Dan Patterson, was getting ready to tap the shiny and decaled firkin, much to the amusement of his lovely wife, who was both excited and nervous for her husband's first cask tapping.

By 4:30pm a large crowd of brewers, media, politicians, and students had gathered under the party tent and watched a number of speeches, including one delivered by John Sleeman, who was quick to point out how exciting this program is for the brewing industry. Once the speeches were out of the way, onlookers watched as Dr. Patterson swung the wooden mallet, tapping the first official cask (Get Fuggled) to mark the grand opening.

Shortly after 6pm we were ushered into the dining room again for a five course Brewmasters Dinner that was simply amazing. The floor was shared between brewers and the chef (Michael Olson) who spoke about their creations respectively.

Here are some cool facts about the program:
  • Each student currently enrolled in the program has been successful in landing work in the brewing industry for the summer break. 
  • Like last year, the admissions staff at the college have been assaulted with a barrage of student applications for the 24 student seats, over 200 applications in fact.
And here are two video's on the Grand Opening, one from the CBC that has been posted on the Ontario Craft Brewers YouTube channel and the latter from TAPS The Beer Magazine.

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