Brewing a hands-on experience

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Creating future beer experts one batch at a time are Otago Polytechnic’s Central Campus brewery’s Ben Middlemiss and Geoff Collie.
Based at the polytech’s purpose-built brewing facility on Bannockburn Rd in Cromwell, they help budding brewers learn just what it takes to develop a top-notch craft beer.
Operations manager Mr Middlemiss said as well as being a training brewery it was a commercial operation.
The brewery launched late last year as Rough Rock Brewing Co, but was using the label ‘‘Otago Brew School’’ to more accurately reflect the product, Mr Middlemiss said.
The beer was able to be experienced in local bars and restaurants.
‘‘The beauty of it is the students then get to work while they are learning within a proper operating brewery.’’
The facility produced 500 to 1000 litres per brew day, which could be packaged into kegs or bottles.
As a training organisation there was ‘‘great scope’’ to produce many different varieties.
‘‘We are not limited to making one or two different styles of beer — we can teach students to make many different varieties.’’
Having the beer available to the public enabled students to get direct feedback.
‘‘Right now we are getting very positive feedback, and we have only really been running a short while,’’ Mr Middlemiss said.
Student Ryan Gordon moved from Auckland to Cromwell to take part in the course at the beginning of the year.
He was looking for something he would enjoy as a career, and was interested when he came across the course — ‘‘It tickled my fancy’’.
Mr Gordon moved into polytech accommodation for the duration of the course.
‘‘They are pretty cheap as well, so it wasn’t too hard a move.’’
He began the course ‘‘pretty green’’ and was learning ‘‘pretty much everything from start to finish’’.
‘‘I’ve learned a fair bit in the past six months,’’ Mr Gordon said.
Lecturer Mr Collie said students on the course learned about raw materials, brewing processes, engineering and brewing equipment plus the legislative and regulatory requirements of operating breweries.
‘‘The basics of making beer remain pretty much the same, the raw materials don’t change a lot, but an awful lot of brewers are playing around with all sorts of other bits and pieces to try to put their own spin on a beer.’’
There had been a ‘‘huge increase’’ in the number of craft beers, and a focus for the course was educating students on what good beer should taste like, Mr Collie said.
Having an operating brewery as part of the course was very important.
‘‘The classroom can get a bit dry at times, so I think the students really enjoy getting out and doing the hands-on stuff.’’
Being able to put into practice what they were learning enabled them to see the results in the end product, he said.