Niagara College brews up medal at U.S. Open Beer Championship

Niagara College Teaching Brewery is proving it has the recipe for success.

The Teaching Brewery’s Brewmaster Strong Ale has entered the international spotlight with a bronze medal win at the recent United States Open Beer Championship. The strong yet subtle ale with caramel light chocolate and roasted malt flavours and a 7.5% alcohol content was awarded bronze in the Old Ale category.

“It’s very rewarding to know that the beers our students brew are high quality and can stand up against the best beers in the world” said NC Brewmaster professor Jon Downing.

The U.S. Open Beer Championship held in Atlanta Georgia is the only brewery competition to include professional breweries and award-winning home brewers. More than 3000 beers and ciders were entered into the competition in 81 different categories. The NC Teaching Brewery was among 20 international breweries to compete in the U.S. Open Beer Championship this year along with others from Canada England Iceland Australia Belgium Germany Mexico Brazil Sweden and Finland.

Students from Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program not only had a major role in creating a medal-winning beer for the championship some of them also had an opportunity to help judge the entries. In June nine students travelled to Atlanta where they joined professor Jon Downing who is also director of judging for the competition as well as other judges from the U.S. England Finland and Canada. All judging in the competition was blind; judges did not know what they were tasting.

“There are very few events of this scale held so the experience our students gained is very valuable” said Downing who noted that sensory training is an essential component of the college’s Brewmaster program. “The event was a great opportunity for our students to not only try a large number of the best beers in the world but to interact with other judges.”

“The greatest part of this year’s championship was watching young brewers experiencing hundreds of beers that they have never tried and listening to them describe some the complex beers especially in the herb and spice category” said Dow Scoggins head beer server at the U.S. Open Beer Championship. “Once you have judged at the U.S. Open you are welcomed back in future competitions. I believe many of these students will be back.”

Niagara College also played a major role in the development of another medal-winning beer celebrated at the competition which took top honours in the non-alcoholic category: MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager. MADD Virgin Drinks Canada turned to Niagara College’s research department Niagara Research to develop its alcohol-free lager. In addition to college researchers product development tapped into expertise of staff and students at the NC Teaching Brewery. The product is now available for purchase in Canada and the U.S. at Sobeys Shoppers Drug Mart and Walgreens.

Downing was also proud of the fact that alumni from Niagara College’s Brewmaster program were behind many medal-winning beers at this year’s U.S. Open Beer Championship from such Ontario breweries as Neustadt Springs Brewery Grand River Brewing Wellington Brewery Sawdust City Brewing Cameron’s Brewing Nickel Brook Brewery Forked River Brewing and Mill Street Brewery.

While the 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship marked the first medal ever for Brewmaster Strong Ale the Niagara College Teaching Brewery has been a consistent winner at the international competition. Just months after it opened in 2011 the NC Teaching Brewery won two silvers and a bronze medal at the competition. In 2012 it captured two gold medals and two silvers along with a prestigious top-10 overall rating in the competition; and in 2013 the Teaching Brewery gained a silver and two bronze medals.

 For info about the U.S. Open Beer Championship visit

NC’s Teaching Brewery the first fully-licensed teaching brewery in Canada opened at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus in April 2011. The facility allows students to brew their own craft beer on campus and get hands-on training in beer making management and sensory evaluation. The beers are also sold on-campus at the NC Teaching Brewery retail store.

Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences advanced technology media applied health and community safety supported by unique learning enterprises in food wine beer horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit




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