Gold and silver bells are ringing for the Niagara College Teaching Brewery after winning two new medals at the recent Ontario Brewing Awards: a gold for Beer 101 Bock (Amber Malty European Lager category) and a silver for Beer 101 Strong Ale (Strong British Ale category).
“Our trailblazing Teaching Brewery continues to raise the bar for the industry,” said Steve Gill, General Manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “The biggest winners are our students, thanks to the quality of applied education at NC, and, in turn, they bring their skills and knowledge into the industry.”
The two award-winning beers are from the Teaching Brewery’s popular Beer 101 series and have won multiple national and international awards.
Brewmaster Professor Jon Downing noted the fact that both Beer 101 Bock and Beer 101 Strong Ale have previously won golds in other national and international competitions highlights the consistency and quality of brewing education that students gain at NC.
“When the same brews win when brewed by different people – that’s something that all our students and graduates can be proud of,” he said.
He also applauded the fact that several alumni from NC’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program represented breweries from across Ontario at the awards ceremony.
“The best thing about the Ontario Brewing Awards was seeing so many of our NC Brewmaster graduates on stage and accepting awards,” said Downing, noting that many winning breweries employ alumni from the College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program.
NC Brewmaster grad (2022) Adam Marshall, Assistant Brewer and an instructor at the Teaching Brewery, noted that NC Brewmaster graduates were well represented at the industry event.
“I knew about 10 people and they were all grads during my time here. So even fresh grads in the industry are working their way up enough that they’re sent on behalf of their brewery,” he said.
Marshall pointed out that numerous current NC students have worked on the Teaching Brewery’s latest award-winning beers.
“It’s a testament to the program that different classes of students keep on producing award-winning beers,” he said. “The Teaching Brewery runs like a well-oiled machine.”
Third-term Brewmaster student Mike Koski takes pride in the Teaching Brewery’s success.
“I brag to people all the time that our beers win medals,” he said. “I’ve met some of the best brewers in Ontario and I’ve learned from some really interesting people.”
Aaron Spinney, who was among NC’s historic first class of Brewmaster graduates in June 2012, is now at the helm of his own craft brewery: Merit Brewing Co. in downtown Hamilton. Merit won gold in the Specialty Beer category for Happy Place – one of the wine hybrids that are a focus at the brewery, which aims to blur lines for the beer and wine.
The winning beer focuses on Cab Franc grapes and vines.
“It seems like a lifetime ago that I went to Niagara College, so much so that we have employed three graduated students ourselves here at Merit. I feel like the old cheerleader rooting for everyone else now,” said Spinney.
Brewmaster grad (2017) Christian Hand, Head Brewer at Orillia-based Couchiching Craft Brewing Co., was thrilled about his Black River Stout securing gold for the second year in a row as well his Atherley Pale Ale winning a silver at the Ontario Brewing Awards.
“Niagara College has been a very important part of my life and professional journey,” said Hand. “I credit much of my success to the education I received there.”
Hand was a wine student at the College when he became interested in the Brewmaster program through his participation in an interdisciplinary ‘wine versus beer’ dinner event – Caps, Corks and Forks – and he enrolled in the Brewmaster program a few years later after shifting his focus to beer.
“At that time, I was only 19 and had limited knowledge of craft beer,” said Hand. ”However, that event opened my eyes to the incredible world of beer and the artistic freedom it offered in creating unique brews.”
Hand noted that the relationships he fostered at the College have been instrumental to his professional journey.
“It’s been rewarding collaborating with fellow graduates, post-graduation,” Hand said. “I was particularly proud to share the stage with my former boss, Andrew Bartle, also a grad, at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards, where we both received awards for our stouts.”
“Niagara College continues to play a significant role in shaping successful brewers, and I am proud to be a part of that legacy.”
The Ontario Brewing Awards held its 2023 awards ceremony on December 5 at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on the Lake.
The medals cap off a successful year for the Teaching Brewery. NC was named Grand National Champion at the 2023 U.S. Open College Beer Championship, where all five unique small batch beers entered by NC Brewmaster students won medals: two gold medals, two silvers, and one bronze. At the U.S. Open Beer Championship, the NC Teaching Brewery’s Beer 101 Bitter and Beer 101 Strong also won silver medals.
NC’s Teaching Brewery opened in April 2011 – months following the launch of the College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Managementprogram in 2010. Both the program and the Teaching Brewery were the first in Canada. The award-winning, two-year program offers extensivehands-on training at an on-site, state-of-the-art Teaching Brewery to prepare students for employment in the expanding brewery, microbrewery and brewpub industries. Located at the College’s Daniel J. Patterson in Niagara-on-the-Lake, students learn from award-winning faculty and have access to on-site hop yard and local farm products to brew a full range of beer styles. Visit ncteachingbrewery.ca.
Both Beer 101 Bock and Beer 101 Strong Ale are available for purchase alongside student-crafted products from NC’s School of Wine Beer and Spirits, at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre (Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake) and online at ncteachingwinery.ca.
Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of close to 11,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.