Author Topic: Brewing Education  (Read 3815 times)

Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Brewing Education
« on: April 23, 2013, 06:02:01 AM »
Hey guys,

I am currently enrolled in the American Brewers Guild's "Brewery-In-Planning" brewing course, which is an online course that culminates in a week-long, on-site mini-apprenticeship at the ABG's lab and brewery in Vermont.  The course starts in June, and the ABG describes it as an intensive and comprehensive course on brewing science and engineering for the brewery-in-planning (the ABG says it's the same course as the diploma'd course without the 5-week apprenticeship).

Even though I've been homebrewing for the past 8 years (160+ batches), I want the beer that we produce at Bauhaus Brew Labs to be consistently high-quality, world-class beer.  I enrolled in the ABG course in order to supplement my existing knowledge, hoping that it will help us to achieve our quality and consistency objectives.

Here's the rub.  I attended a beer dinner last night for Summit Brewing Co. here in Minnesota.  I got the chance to talk quite a bit with Gabe Smoley, one of Summit's seven brewers.  I asked him if he had received any formal brewing education.  He said he hadn't, but that he had worked as an apprentice brewer at a 5-bbl brewpub, which he eventually took over and ran for a few years.  I've talked with other pro brewers who have not received formal education either.

This is all leading up to the following question: is it worth my time/money to take the ABG course?  For you guys who have started breweries/brewpubs (Keith, Leos, Anthony, Sean, etc.), did you receive any formal education?  If you didn't, do you wish you would have?

I have a few opportunities to brew with some pro brewers here in the Twin Cities over the next few months.  I'm wondering if taking a few days off of work to periodically brew with some pros would be more beneficial (and less expensive!) with regard to preparing me for brewing commercially.  My father-in-law, who used to work as a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, will be maintaining our lab and assisting with quality control.  Given his experience, is it still a good idea for me to take the course in order to learn more about brewing science?

Any and all insight and suggestions would be very appreciated!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 06:10:01 AM by Pawtucket Patriot »
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 06:12:45 AM »
Brewing is a technical skill. Some people can learn very well on the job, or on their own (books, self-study), but others need help (formal education or apprenticeships). You can learn everything you need to know on the job, but it will probably take a lot longer, and will probably cost a lot more, than either formal training or an apprenticeship.

When the clock is ticking on your lease and you're dumping money down the drain (bad batches) is that really the best time to learn those skills? For some people it might be. I couldn't deal with that.

Also, keep in mind that when a lot of those established brewers started, there wasn't really much in the way of formal training for brewers. UC Davis, part of the OSU curriculum, Weihenstephan, and a few classes in food processing programs at various unis. They were all macro-focused.

There have been a ton of formal winemaking training programs for a long time, and those seem to be positively regarded in the wine industry.   
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 06:46:31 AM »
Something that I considered, when I had the opportunity to start a brewery: There are a lot of out of work brewers in the world. They don't make much money. So hire one to train you, pay them enough to cover relocation expenses, if necessary. If you guys work well together maybe keep them on, because if you're busy you'll need the help.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 06:54:08 AM »
I think if you don't have a technical background and/or haven't been in some kind of food plant setting, its worth the investment. This is esp. true if you're packaging.

Think about all the things homebrewers don't care about or don't need to know to make great beer:

 - Evaluating raw ingredients (especially malt)
 - Developing a production schedule (considering yeast management, labor availability, tank space, etc)
 - PACKAGING (and producing shelf-stable beer)
 - Liquid transfer, heating/cooling, etc. (Pumps, hoses, sanitary fittings, etc.)
 - Draft system equipment, setup, maintenance, sanitation, options for serving vessel (bright tank vs. keg)
 - Sanke kegs
 - Estimating production costs
 - Inventory management
 - Etc. Etc. Etc.

I'm sure there are a lot of other examples, this is just off the top of my head.

Does the Brewery-In-Planning have a financial/business aspect? If given the choice, I would take a business diploma over a brewing diploma before starting a brewery.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 08:30:09 AM »
Well, I've got a business background (B.B.A.) and I'm an attorney, so I think I've got a decent grasp on the business/financial aspect.  It's really a question of how well I understand brewing from a technical perspective.  I've got the Siebel textbook (Technology Malting and Brewing) and it's really in-depth.  Is reading that a good substitute for an actual brewing course?  I'm not sure... :-\
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Offline nateo

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 08:37:47 AM »
If you have a business background, you should know all about leveraging core competencies. You're way more qualified to run the brewery than the average pro brewer, but the average pro brewer is way more qualified to make beer than you. So, why not just hire a brewer?
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Offline phunhog

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 08:59:02 AM »
Something that I considered, when I had the opportunity to start a brewery: There are a lot of out of work brewers in the world. They don't make much money. So hire one to train you, pay them enough to cover relocation expenses, if necessary. If you guys work well together maybe keep them on, because if you're busy you'll need the help.

That's a really good idea!! Maybe you can even find an experienced local brewer who wants to make a little money on the side as a consultant.  Somebody who can teach you some bare bones brewery operations (CIP, kegging, filtering, etc..).  I would think that most of those practices are somewhat standarized throughout the industry. 

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2013, 07:57:46 PM »
Matt,
This is my opinion.

You already know how to brew beer.
You know about sanitation and cleaning.

What you are not familiar is the scale of equipment and SOP (Standard operating procedures).

So this would be my advice.
Forget about siebel or ABG.
Work with local breweries and observe day to day operation.
You need only one brewery to do SOP.
Others would be great you have better overview what is going on.
Each brewery is just a little different.
If you do not get to Surly or Summit do not worry about it.
Plenty of other breweries.
Their SOP might not apply to you because of their scale.

Observe and adjust it to your conditions.

Good luck.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2013, 07:43:24 AM »
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!  I've got a few weeks to make a final decision.  Maybe I'll get a chance to brew with some of my contacts at local breweries before I have to make a decision.
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2013, 09:32:01 AM »
I think that the brewing science part of it is relatively easy. You already have Kunze; pick up a few more books and - as long as you're diligent about studying - within a few months you'll know everything the instructors in a brewing science course would know. You've already demonstrated that you can learn and retain information.

In my first job (5 bbl brewpub), I ended up wishing I had some training. The head brewer left after two weeks and it was sink-or-swim after that. The procedures are all the same as at home (depending on how you brew), but learning the equipment and SOPs will inevitably take some time. From that perspective, I would choose a few days here and there over a week, or even five, at a single brewery. I interviewed an ABG grad who didn't know how to disassemble and clean a ball valve. No big deal if your brewery has all butterflies, but this is the real world.

I've learned something new in every brewery I've been in, even if I haven't worked there. No matter how good you are, there are some things that you just won't think of on your own. I think your plan of getting as much exposure as possible, and then possibly following that up with the ABG course, is a good one.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2013, 08:39:32 AM »
Well, I just broke down and enrolled in Siebel's web-based Concise Course in Brewing Technology.  I start on August 18.  I'm actually really looking forward to it. 
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Online Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2013, 06:19:42 PM »
Cool.
Then you will give us a class.
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Offline motleybrews

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2013, 10:55:49 PM »
I recently (October 19-November 1 2013) took the on campus Concise Course in Brewing Technologies at Siebel (2 weeks in Chicago as opposed to 3 months online...same price as online + expenses). I would recommend this class to anyone considering going pro. I am enrolled in the Master Brewer Program which will begin in February and end late July, and once I come back and get my own thing going, the Concise Course (on campus) will be budgeted into the capital expenses for any hands on partners/brewers I have join the team.

It was intense (9am-5pm M-F) with each day broken into one hour (a few presentations lasted 3 hours) lectures. When the 2 weeks was up, we had touched on literally every aspect of commercial beer brewing, from safety to packaging and everything in between. We also had several sensory panels (Budweisers spiked with off flavors) as well as styles tastings, and that was pretty cool. The concise course and Master Brewer program get a lot of material from the Kunze book (which I am working my way through now in preparation for next year).

The teachers were great. One was the brewmaster for AB for 27 years at various factories, and brought that knowledge to the table. He was much better on the production side of things than he was on the raw materials, but that was no big deal. Another was Matt Bryndison (sp?) brew master at Firestone Walker. What an incredible knowledge base that guy was. One was the packaging manager for MillerCoors for 22 years. Another teacher had gone through the Diploma program a few years ago, and has worked in the industry since, and he brought a real life "been there done that" kinda knowledge base to the table. Keith was hilarious, and Lyn, the president was awesome.

We had a South Korean, a few mexicans (Modelo), 2 canadians, a guy from Israel, a guy from MillerCoors, quality control girl from Kona, people who had never brewed before, people from Smirnoff parents company Diago, homebrewers, and people working in the industry on all size systems.

Siebel's new facility is in the bottom floor of Kendall College, which is a pretty awesome culinary school. For $5/meal you could choose from one of three food areas: the cafeteria (where I ate exclusively) which had several stations and things ranging from beef and barley soup to reubens to lobster (yes, good lobster for $5); the quick serve restaurant (order at one counter, pick up at the other), and a sit down restaurant that you could have wine at, with servers and the whole nine yards (you had to make a reservation...yes, for $5). The Kendall faculty was nice enough (once we learned the no hats in the cafeteria rule), and the students were friendly. Many conversations were started based on our name tags and that we were brewers. As a Siebel student, we also got discounts at some local establishments (20% off at goose island, 10% off at haymarket and some hotdog place).

The most fun part was the bier stube, which was the free (well, you paid a s*** load for it) beer on tap and in the fridge just about 15 feet from the classroom door. We would go up and eat lunch, and come back down and have beers, go back to class, sometimes have beers in between classes, and after classes, the teachers would come out and drink with us and we could pretty much ask them about anything. During the school hours we were on a pretty tight schedule, so while discussions and questions were encouraged, we had to keep the class moving, so we could revisit topics and talk specifics after class.

The "books" were 2 inch binders packed to the gills. One for each week. It was kind of intimidating, but once you figured out what worked best for you (some had binders and a spiral, some binders and laptop and spiral, some taking notes in binder, etc) it wasn't too bad. There was one test at the end of the 2 weeks. We definitely had to study, but if you have commercial brewing experience, you have a jump on the game. The last 8 months or so working in a brewery really gave me a good base of knowledge to build upon.

If you are serious about brewing, and want to do it on a commercial scale, for yourself or someone else, I would highly recommend the class.

Hope this helps. feel free to PM me (i don't get on here often though, so email is probably best bet) or email me at motleybrews at gmail dot com if you have any specific questions and i will do my best to answer.

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i was using the binder and an iPad at one point
« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 10:57:54 PM by motleybrews »

Offline boulderbrewer

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2013, 09:50:26 AM »
Good information.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Brewing Education
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2013, 12:53:39 PM »
Wish I would have been able to do the hands-on concise course, but I just completed the web-based course and I thought it was pretty helpful.
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