Saturday, June 14, 2008

Northern Germany Excursion

Well, I made it back to VA, but I still owe you guys a couple of posts. Here's the run down on our final excursion: First, we arrived in Stralsund and toured the Stralsunder Brauerei. Perhaps the smallest production brewery I saw in Germany, Stralsunder is an innovative regional brewery specializing in dark beers and packing beer in special displays for brewing giants such as InBev. By the way, I say "special" a lot now. It's the German default word whenever they're unsure of which adjective to use.

Next stop, was Malteurop, a massive tower maltery in Rostock. This was a fascinating visit and we got to see much more of the plant than we did on the trip to Weyermann. They even let us take pictures and walk inside (very briefly) of a hot kiln. Here's the view from the roof and the inside of a germination box. I also got some good video of a conical steep being filled and aerated.

The next bus stop was Flensburg, where we toured KRONES and witnessed the construction of massive bottle washers. When in Flensburg, of course you've got to visit the Flensburger Brauerei, famous for their swing top bottles. Ever wonder how they get the swing tops onto bottles? Well, now you can watch right here. I wanted to put this one to circus music, but there's no time for that so just make your own.

On to Hamburg, where Holsten Brauerei wins the award for control room that looks the most like a bank. They made us wear funny suits and hats and they have just about every kind of filter there, except a cross flow membrane. We also saw the massive screens of a huge horizontal leaf filter being replaced post repair. Also in Hamburg, we visited a division of KHS, which manufactures machines for blowing PET bottles.

The final day included a fascinating trip to barley breeding company, KWS Lochow. These guys have an enormous influence on the malt that brewers end up having access to, and it was amazing to learn how little communication and integration there is between brewers and barley breeders. It takes about 15 years to introduce a new barley strain to the market. Our last stop was the massive Hasseroeder (InBev) Brauerei. There was a antique bus full of senior citizens leaving when we got there. Here's a shot of the brewhouse and the bottling line.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ich bin Braumeister!

There's been a lot of celebrating in the last week. We had a great excursion in northern Germany (thanks to Ingo & Katrin for organizing it and Burghard for leading us!) and I received my diploma yesterday! I've got a lot of cool pictures and videos from the trip that I will put up soon, and I've still got an overall review of the program on deck, as well as recommendations for those of you who are enrolled in CBC 09.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Even More Reviews

Brewing technology was OK, but definitely fell short of my expectations. Too much plant equipment material, and not enough theory. Too much overview of processes, and not enough (quality) detail. The manuals provided (pictured) for just this one class are responsible for about half of the total weight that I am shipping home. There is some good info in there for sure (otherwise I wouldn't be shipping it home, right?) but many slides, graphs etc. don't state assumptions or paint the full picture, and there are too many contradictions in the material. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this class and I know that I am not alone. I recommend eliminating all plant equipment material from these manuals and doing some major editing and proofreading to improve this course.

We had many engineering type of classes, which for the most part are filed under plant equipment. In addition to Roland Pahl's main plant lectures, we had topics on filling and packaging from George Wenk and Roland Foltz, and Christoph Kunzmann headed up topics like corrosion, CIP, cold processing, and energy. I probably missed something. Although this department wins the award for the most rescheduled/changed/missed/confused lectures, it also wins most likely for me to walk away feeling like I got my money's worth.

Dr. Alfons Ahrens parted the waters for us - water and waste water. Although, the lectures were a little dry at times, Ahrens is an expert and a real nice and patient guy. He helped me and at least one other classmate with special cases outside of class. These classes also suffer from some pretty severe manual disorganization (way too many duplicate slides) but overall I learned a lot and found both classes beneficial.

I'm going to miss Fridays in Berlin. Chemical Technical Analyses (CTA) is what Friday at the CBC is all about. Katrin Preisser was our instructor for CTA and we learned a lot and had a lot of fun in her class. Again, practical work is a strength of VLB. In addition to being one of the better instructors, Katrin One-Value-Is-No-Value Preisser wins the best manual award - it came complete with page numbers (accurate and only one set), an index, and lots of pertinent, practical data that I know I will reference in the future.

More Reviews: Raw Materials & More

The raw materials classes from the first module were pretty solid. The barley class was a great intro to malting technology, a subject that was both completely new and fascinating for me. As I've mentioned in the past, I think that understanding barley and malting is crucial to understanding brewing, so thanks to Burghard Meyer for introducing me to the topic. Burghard was our main instructor and also taught hops, brewing technology, and brewery arithmetics. The latter was pretty, pretty painful and consisted of just copying down error laden practice problems. I found most of the problems poorly worded and it took me quite a while to get used to the German way of arithmetics, which works but is very different from the way that I am used to thinking. Personally, I think VLB should drop this course and add some more quality science hours in its place. If they still have it next year, have fun.

The hops class was also pretty solid and had some good hands-on components, including a special lecture by the renowned Dr. Schildbach and the unofficial practical work in Burghard's hop garden. Nice touch, Burghard. The non-VLB trip to Hopsteiner (thanks Martin!) during our whirlwind Bavaria "pullover" tour, as well as the opportunity to meet arguably the most important man in the business, Mr. Henry Barth (thanks Meg's Dad & thanks Henry!), were also invaluable supplements to my hop experience here in Germany. There are some good people in the hop trade for sure!

In my ideal world, I would have liked to see VLB arrange a trip like ours to Mainburg, but it all worked out for the best in the end. I think one thing that VLB could easily do that would help a ton would be to add some non-holiday Fridays or Mondays off to make independent trips like ours less of a headache to organize. Perhaps they could extend the course a week and add a break in the middle.

More Reviews: Microbiology & Sensory Analysis

Microbiology: I never felt like I was learning a lot during this class, but now that it's over, I can see that I most certainly did. This course is held every week throughout all 3 modules and consists of a regular classroom lecture, followed by the practical work in the lab. It's difficult to breath in the lab with the lack of ventilation and all of those burners...burning, so I often found myself more focused on getting out of the room than learning, but I guess it all worked out in the end. The practical work is a real strength of VLB, and this is one of those classes where how well you do/how much you learn is really a factor of what you put in. Dr. Hinrichs isn't going to hold your hand and lead you through anything, but he's 100% there when you have questions/ask for help. Involve him in your thought processes and problems and you'll be better off for it. Hinrichs is one of VLB's best instructors, and was a definite favorite of our class. He also is hilarious and likes to yell, "Heat-ing-Test!"

Sensory Analysis: Dr. Hardt did a good job with this class, given the amount of time allotted for it, which was insufficient. We didn't actually get into this class until the 3rd module and it's a real shame. I think sensory analysis is some of the most important kind of training there is in this line of work, and while I might occasionally use it as an excuse to go drinking, in all seriousness it is difficult/impossible to train without professional guidance. I think most participants were disappointed that this class ended up being more of an overview to the subject rather than serious actual training. Future CBC classes should put some pressure on VLB to make this course a higher priority and there is no reason it couldn't start in the the 1st module and go for the entire program.