Toasting NC’s first brewmaster grads

Pictured: NC’s first class of Brewmaster students.


When NC’s first class of Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management students crossed the stage at convocation on June 21 and became the first graduates of their kind in the country, it was a special moment – not only for the students, but for the College.

“I feel that I graduated too, as did the program and the brewery,” said Brewmaster professor Jon Downing.

The recent graduates were among the first to enroll when the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute launched the program in 2010 and welcomed its first class of Brewmaster students into its on-campus Teaching Brewery. Since then, there have been hundreds of applicants on its waiting list each year for the popular program which teaches students everything they need to know about all aspects of brewery operations – from formulating recipes for new craft beer varieties to operating brewery equipment and marketing the college’s very own brand of beer, named ‘First Draft.’

Their work has been championed locally and abroad. The student-crafted Rudolph’s Red Nosed Ale won gold and a people’s choice award for strong ale at the Ontario Brewing Awards. They also won three medals from the 2011 United States Open Beer Championships. Last summer marked the debut of its distinctly Canadian beer Great Weiss North, created in collaboration with Sawdust City Brewing and Taps Magazine, at the Canadian National Exhibition. NC Brewmaster students have created more than 70 varieties of beer, available at the on-campus retail beer store, while their signature First Draft brand is also available at select establishments throughout Ontario.

Downing noted that the graduates are entering the workforce at a time of high demand in the industry, with craft beer being among the fastest-growing sectors of alcoholic beverages in North America. With brewers in short supply and many start-up craft brewers are self-taught, and brewers are in short supply, frequently moving around the country, hopping from one brewery to the next, to help meet the demand.  

“We have let loose on an eagerly waiting brewing community the first of many classes,” he said. “At last checking, all graduates have found jobs in breweries across the country and a few are even working on their own start up businesses already.”

The significance of the first graduating class was noted by co-founder of Steam Whistle Brewing Cam Heaps as he addressed the graduates their convocation ceremony on the morning of June 22.

“A piece of history is happening here today,” Heaps said. “For the first time in the history of our country, there’s a graduating class from a brewery program. And that makes me very excited, and it should make everyone excited.”

See video of Heaps’ speech here.

Congratulations to NC’s first class of Brewmaster grads and all 2012 graduates!

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