Niagara College Teaching Brewery taps into success at U.S. Open Beer Championship

International success is brewing at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery.

On July 4, the NC Teaching Brewery – the first of its kind in Canada based at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus – was announced as the winner of three medals at the 2015 United States Open Beer Championship. More than 4,000 beers and ciders from professional breweries and award-winning home brewers from more than 20 countries were entered into this year’s competition, based in Oxford, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia.

The NC Teaching Brewery won a gold for Brewmaster Stout (Foreign Stout category). This was the first-ever medal for the oatmeal-based Stout, with a 5.5% alcohol content. The down-to-earth malty ale with rich dark hues and a thick, creamy texture is brewed using sophisticated English tradition.

The Teaching Brewery’s multiple-award winning Butler’s Bitter captured silver in the Bitter category. Since it stormed onto the beer scene as a celebration beer for the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the traditional light bodied, smooth drinking, English style Bitter with a 4.4% alcohol content has won numerous medals including gold (2012) and bronze (2013) at the U.S. Open, gold at the Ontario Brewing Awards (2013), gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards (2013), silver at the Dublin Beer Cup (2013), and bronze at the World Beer Cup (2014).

Student-created Liqueur de Malt, captured a bronze medal in the American Imperial Pilsner category. The small batch brew was designed and created by the College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management student Jeremy Fehr, assisted by fellow students Mike Hueftlein and Tanner Hinrichsen. The lightly hopped malt and corn brew is a “malt liquor or higher” strength Lager with a 6.9% alcohol content.

College brewmaster Jon Downing noted that this was the fifth consecutive year that the Niagara College Teaching Brewery has won medals at the U.S. Open.

“It’s always great to get recognition for students and the Brewmaster program,” he said. “Butler’s Bitter’s win shows our commitment to teaching the students that consistency and quality are the hallmarks of a great beer – and different groups of our students have made all the different medal winning beers – while Liqueur de Malt’s medal is particularly rewarding as a student beer that won in a new category for the event.”

Fehr, who is in his final year of the Brewmaster program, said he was shocked that his beer won a medal at the international competition.

“It’s a real confidence booster for me. I had never even entered a beer in a competition before now. I’m very proud,” said the 28-year-old Niagara-on-the-Lake resident, originally from Delaware, Ontario. “Niagara College is very much a part of Ontario’s craft beer industry and even at the student level you are already part of the craft brewing world. It is a great experience.”

Downing, who has installed more than 100 breweries around the world, is an international beer judge and the director of judging for the U.S. Open Championship. Downing does not judge or organize any categories that Niagara College beers are entered into and all entries are judged in a blind taste test. This year, 16 Brewmaster students from the College  travelled with Downing to participate in judging for the competition between Oxford, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia.

“It’s a valuable learning experience for our Brewmaster students,” said Downing.

Alcohol-free MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager wins gold

In addition to the three winning beers from its Teaching Brewery, Niagara College’s research division developed another beer which won gold in the non-alcoholic category: MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager. More than three years ago, MADD Virgin Drinks turned to Research & Innovation at Niagara College (formerly Niagara Research) to develop a beer with 0% alcohol. In addition to college researchers, product development tapped into the expertise of staff and students at the NC Teaching Brewery. 

“It's very rewarding to see the continued success, on an international stage, of a product for which we played an integral part,” notes Marc Nantel, associate vice-president, Research & Innovation at Niagara College.

Brian Bolshin, president and CEO of MADD Virgin Drinks noted that he was pleased with the success of MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager which won its second consecutive gold medal at the U.S. Open Beer Championship medal after only two years on the market.

“Considering we were up against some of the biggest and most famous European breweries, it makes the victory that much more gratifying,” said Bolshin. “We’re equally proud of our partners at Research & Innovation at Niagara College because we couldn’t have done it without them. From day one, we worked together with a single goal in mind, to create the best tasting alcohol-free Lager on the market, and the most respected judges from the world of beer have declared we have done just that.”

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

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 Continuing Education 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 http://www.niagaracollegeca/content/

Niagara College medals at the U.S. Open Beer Championship

2011

Silver, First Draft Ale (Bitter)

Silver, Stomp (Old Ale)

Bronze, Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale (Barley Wine)

2012

Gold, Butler’s Bitter (Bitter)

Gold, Helenboch (Munich Helles)

Silver, First Draft Ale (English Summer Ale)

Silver, Bertwell’s Rudolph’s (Wood/Barrel Aged)

NC Teaching Brewery ranked No. 6 brewery in competition

2013

Silver, First Draft Ale (English Summer Ale)

Bronze, Butler’s Bitter (Bitter)

Bronze, Brewmaster Wheat (German Wheat Beer)

2014

Bronze, Brewmaster Strong (Old Ale)