[This is the second installment of an ongoing series by Adam Draeger, an experienced homebrewer and engineer transitioning to the world of professional brewing through coursework at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology.]
Back for another blog update? I wanted to start this post out thanking you for following me during this experience. The emails and comments that I get are good fuel for studying hard and following this path. This week flew by faster than the first; I think mainly due to two field trips this week and the fact that the warm weather melted all the snow in Chicago and it was quite pleasant walking from place to place.
At noon on Monday, our class gladly walked across the street to meet with the Goose Island Brewpub <http://www.gooseisland.com/> head brewer, Jarrod. Jarrod gave us the nickel-tour and welcomed questions from the students. As a former Siebel graduate, he was very generous with his answers and kept encouraging us to pick his brain. He did prompt us with one question though, “How do I get a job in the brewing industry?” His answer focused on the main points of working hard, volunteering to do low jobs at breweries and just building relationships with brewers/breweries. “Find a brewery that will let you help out for free to prove yourself and get experience,” was his theme.
On Tuesday we got to Siebel two hours early and jumped on a charter bus heading to Chilton, WI, home of Briess Malting Co. <http://www.brewingwithbriess.com/> Briess is the smallest malting operation in the US, but is renowned for their huge selection of specialty malts and their malt extract production worthouse. The smells that came from this place were heavenly, and I almost hyperventilated trying to take it all in. After a short presentation followed by an amazing sack lunch (if you could call it that) we loaded up the bus to head to the other location where the malt was made. This was needed to see the steps, in person, that we kept reading about. Receiving, testing, steeping, germination, kilning, roasting, cooling and packaging were the main steps that we toured. We even got to taste germinating barley, warm kilned malt and early stages of the warm roasted malts. When we got back to HQ, they couldn’t give us a tour of the malt extract facilities because they didn’t want to suit all of us up in their biosuits. But we had another presentation where we tasted their whole lineup of specialty grains and got our questions answered. It helped that they provided beverages for washing down the husky flavors left in our mouths. Briess were great hosts and finished by giving us each a bag of their own chocolate-covered malt balls (fantastic!) We were also pleased the bus had a restroom on it as the three-hour bus ride home was also quite jovial. 😉
Our instructors this week ranged from Ray Daniels <http://www.cicerone.org/content/view/16/37/> , who instructed us on mashing, John Mallet ( from Bell’s <http://www.bellsbeer.com/> ), who covered adjuncts, milling and lautering brewing calculations. Most of us really like John. He had a great presence, could making boring sections like milling sound “thrilling” and looked a little bit, but sounded just, like Ray Romano <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005380/> . We were guinea pigs and had one 1-hour lecture via Siebel’s new online presentation format from Kurt Annend, who covered Boiling. Most of the class didn’t like the format compared to the instructor being present. Those of us who have previously taken online classes and presentations, though, had good reviews on the format. The nice part is at anytime you can pause it to take notes or repeat sections. Siebel says that any questions will be answered within 24 hours if emailed to the moderators/instructors. We also had Tim Foley who taught us wort clarification, cooling, aeration as well as brewery effluent (sewage). Lyn Kruger wrapped up the week on cleaning and lab analysis.
On Thursday afternoon we had our second set of tastings, but our first “styles tasting” covered English, Scottish and Irish styles. These bottles were all imported and many of them carried the classic faults and flavors that form due to storage and transportation across the pond. I think I have a better understanding why I don’t care for these beers and feel that a trip to Great Britain to taste these styles fresh would change my opinions about these styles. One example is when my wife and I traveled to Dublin in 2004 and we got to appreciate Guinness as it was intended.
I got to check out a few new places this week as well. On Friday Erin came via Megabus <http://www.megabus.com/> to visit for the weekend (we had our daycare lady take the girls). Right after class, eight of us, and Erin, headed to Revolution Brewpub <http://revbrew.com/> which is located in my neighborhood. Every time I pass this place I notice that it is always full and hopping (no pun intended). We had about an hour wait and so we stood around and tasted each others beers. By the end of the night we had collectively sampled all 12 offerings (two were on cask). Revolution started about a year ago and is so successful that they are in the planning stages for a bottle brewery in addition to the second floor being expanded at the brewpub. The food was a bit pricey but was very good. Their bacon-fat popcorn seemed to be a hit as well as their fire oven pizzas.
Erin and I hit a diner in my neighborhood for breakfast, Millennium Park, Michigan Avenue shopping, Navy Pier <http://www.navypier.com/> for lunch, a movie, pre-dinner drinks at the Wrigleyville Goose Island brewpub and supper at the Rocking Horse Tavern, <http://www.rockinghorsechicago.com/> which were all quite good. I was really pleased with the beer selection and food prices at the Rocking Horse as it is only a block and a half from my apartment. I escorted Erin back to the Megabus stop this morning and got wet with all the rain. The rest of the day was laundry and studying.
This next week is five days straight learning about yeast and bacteria. I’ve already paged through the material and it is very chemistry- and biology-heavy material; this stuff isn’t for the casual student.