Kirk Massey, quality manager at Labatt Brewery in London, explains how various ingredients are taste-tested by the brewery’s Tasting Panel every day during a Niagara College tour on Feb. 6.
Chris Morley, senior director, Corporate Affairs at Labatt Brewery, speaks to a group of second-year Brewmaster students from Niagara College.
On Feb. 6, 2014, second-year Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management students had the opportunity to tour Labatt Brewery in London, Ontario.
The brewery sits on the site of the first Labatt brewery originally built in 1841. The students were greeted by Labatt’s senior director of Corporate Affairs Chris Morley who provided background about the brewery’s history and Labatt’s dedication to quality, consistency and sustainability initiatives. The students were then given a tour of the large and highly-automated operation that brews, ferments and bottles beer 24 hours a day.
Students also saw the human side of the operation in the tasting panel room, where a team of specially trained employees meets every day at 3 p.m. to smell and taste every ingredient that goes into Labatt’s beer.
A human resources manager gave the students an idea of what it is like to work for Labatt and its parent company, brewing giant AB Inbev. They also had the opportunity to direct questions about the plant and its operations to general manager Jake Fenn.
“For the first time, the students saw a large and automated operation, one that is largely controlled from touch screens. This is very different, and on a much larger scale, than craft breweries in Canada,” said Alan Brown, support liaison for the Brewmaster program who accompanied students on the tour.
Brown pointed out that what students have learned in theory and practiced in the Teaching Brewery was validated at the professional level – such as the use of tasting panels for the sensory evaluation of raw materials.
“The students are learning to look at other breweries and say, ‘how can I use that in my brewery?’ As a matter of fact, they now have an assignment to analyze the feasibility of scaling down some of the equipment or practices that they saw on the tour for use in a smaller craft brewery operation,” said Brown.
The Labatt Brewery was the largest that the students have toured, Brown noted. They have visited several other breweries of varying sizes, including Sleeman and F&M n Guelph, and Niagara Oast House and Silversmith in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
In addition to breweries, the students have visited brewing equipment manufacturer Criveller, the Welland Municipal Water Treatment plant, and a hops farm to pick hops. They also recently took part in the Ontario Craft Breweries’ annual conference and the Master Brewing Association of Canada’s 100th Anniversary Annual Conference.
Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program is the first of its type in Canada. It is designed to produce not only the next generation of craft beer brewers but the future leaders of the craft brewing industry.