A Year of Beer!: What were some your beer-related highlights from 2012?
Jon Downing: So many. A good place to start is with our first graduating class all getting jobs either in breweries or setting up their own businesses. Congratulations to all of them and thanks to the people who hired them! It’s been over five years of hard work with the college and Ontario brewers to get to this milestone.
Other highlights were the awards and recognition we earned from the OCB, Ontario Brewing Awards, Bar Towel Golden Tap Awards and U.S. Open Beer Championships where we placed 6th of all breweries in North America with two golds and two silvers, the first Canadian brewery in their top ten.
AYOB!: What was your favourite Niagara College beer from the past year?
JD: The project brews from our second years were all so creative and interesting, showing that they really could apply what they had learned over the course of their studies. From the Craft Brewery side our Butler’s Bitter brewed to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.
AYOB!: What were your favourite beers from other Ontario breweries?
JD: I can honestly say that I have not had a bad beer from any Ontario brewery this year, though a few were strange and some were just weird.
I know it sounds trite but the brews I have really enjoyed are those made in breweries that students work in: Creemore’s Alt, Mill Street Coffee Porter, a bunch of Beau’s, and Neustadt’s 10W30 (which is always in my fridge with a dozen or so other crafts along with First Draft Ale and Lager, Coors or Bud Light for my wife!).
It seems that Muskoka has its own crafty clique going on. I spent a summer weekend sampling (and cooking with) Sawdust City, Lake of Bays and Muskoka with friends which was a blast – we included Flying Monkeys too as you have to drive by on your way up there. A highlight was Muskoka’s Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout over Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream with pure chocolate sauce and raspberries on top. There were so many good cask beers I tried it is difficult to place them all and the brews at Iron Brewer were a lot of fun to try too.
AYOB!: Did you notice any big changes in the Ontario craft beer world in 2012? Do you have any predictions for what 2013 will bring?
JD: Growth. The first OCB conference clearly shows the direction the industry is heading.
More growth and our second cohort of students being set free. Looking forward to sampling some of the new brews coming from the dozen or so new breweries I either didn’t make it to this year or are opening next. We have two new neighbours in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Oast House and Silversmith who have started rolling out some great new brews already – with more to come!
AYOB!: 2012 saw the first graduating class from the Niagara College Teaching Brewery. Do you have an idea how many of them are now working in the beer industry?
JD: From the Rockies to the “Rock” they all have jobs, one even starting up his own Home Brew business in St. Catharines (The Brewmonger – opening in January).
AYOB!: With the continued expansion of craft beer, have you noticed any difference in the applications over the past three years?
JD: The course is in such high demand that we had to institute a portfolio and interview process for applicants. Even with that we still had a wait list of over 70 people this year. The dedication to studies and the confidence of the students manifested itself in the fact that the new first year class brewed their graduation beer within a month of starting the course, a barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout to be tapped in spring 2014.
Thanks to Jon for taking the time to fill us in on his year. Best of like to the graduating class of 2012 and all current Niagara College Teaching Brewery students in their future endeavours.