Posted August 25, 2012

Inside the Niagara College Teaching Brewery

Via the National Post:

Jon Downing, brewmaster professor and pioneer of the two-year diploma program, comes by his enviable academic post honestly, after decades spent toiling in the brewing world. Downing has helped set up more than 100 breweries worldwide, including the first brewpub in Ontario — the Atlas Hotel in Welland in 1986 — and more recently the teaching brewery itself, his 107th, at the college’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus.

“Four or five years ago, I came to the college and I said, ‘You guys really should be teaching a brewing course.’ And they said, ‘Oh, well, we’re in wine country, but we’ll think about it.’ Two weeks later, they called me back and said, ‘We’ve thought about it, and we do want to do it.’ So we spent the next two years designing the course curriculum, and I designed the brewery.”

The building itself is about the size of a small highway rest stop, but contains a five-barrel brewhouse (capable of fermenting 11 hectolitres, or 1,100 litres of beer per batch) and three smaller pilot apparatuses (used for testing recipes). Downing has designed the program so that the hands-on aspects of brewing are at the centre of the students’ lives for the four semesters they spend at the college. The starter beer students create, called “First Draft,” is even sold at a college retail store, bars and restaurants, and it will soon be available at the LCBO, too.

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