The Origins and History of Brewing


I have been so excited for the start of The Origins and History of Brewing class at UCSD Extension. It is a one-unit elective in the Brewing Certificate Program and will consist of five classes over a two week period. One of the reasons this course is densely packed into two weeks is because Christopher McGreger, the instructor, lives in both Germany and Texas and has flown out to San Diego to teach the class. Yuseff shared with us last quarter what an amazing wealth of knowledge Christopher McGreger possesses on the history of brewing and encouraged everyone to take the class.

Christopher McGreger started out the class by giving us our extra credit assignment: brew a beer that resembles what the first settlers to America would have been able to brew when they first arrived.  We will share our homebrew with the class and give a five minute presentation on what ingredients we used and why. The basic ingredients we will all start with are English hops (25-40 IBUs), Maple syrup, and yeast. We can add whatever else we think the first settlers may have used. There is only a week to get this brew going, so I will let you know what I come up with in a future post. This assignment really made the history of brewing feel tangible.

The books in the photo above were Christopher’s recommended reading and I can’t wait to get started! I am not a history buff, but I have been drawn in by Christopher’s intriguing knowledge and love the way it is presented as a cross between Stephen Hawking, Bill Bryson, and Michael Pollan’s styles. Here is a full list of the recommended reading:

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Barrel Aging


Tomme Arthur from The Lost Abbey and Patrick Rue from The Bruery co-taught our Barrel Aging class over the course of two weekends. The lectures were densely packed with information made digestible by the samples of very rare, high alcohol-content barrel aged beers.

For the first class we focused on barrel aged beers, which refers to beers aged in spirit or wine barrels, but excluding sour beers. The purpose of barrel aging beer is to slowly impart oxygen into the beer to aid in the development of complex flavor characteristics and to infuse flavor from the oak and liquids previously stored in the barrel. Barrel aging beer is becoming very popular in the brewing industry and bottles of barrel aged beers are fetching a pretty penny.

We started the class looking at how the barrels are constructed and watched this video describing how a barrel is made.

Breweries are not typically purchasing new oak barrels, but instead, are buying used barrels from wineries or distilleries. After three or four fills of a barrel in a winery it is considered “neutral”, meaning there are not enough flavor compounds left in the wood to impart into the wine. Beer, unlike wine, does not tolerate high concentrations of tannins from the oak barrels; a “neutral” barrel is capable of imparting desirable flavors into the beer. Typically, a brewery will only use a barrel once due to decreased flavor profile in subsequent fills and possible contamination issues.

Bourbon barrels are also popular and more widely available than used wine barrels, making bourbon barrels a popular choice for barrel aging. Bourbon by definition is 51% corn mash, and is aged approximately 7-8 years in charred American oak barrels. The empty bourbon barrels may be sent to Scotland for the barrel aging of Scotch, or to Jalisco for the barrel aging of Tequila, or more recently to breweries for their barrel aging program. We watched this video from a Bourbon producer about the barrels they use:

With the popularity of barrel aging beer, demand for barrels has increased dramatically. New French oak barrels cost upwards of $1,200 and used barrels can range anywhere from $35-$150 and are getting more and more expensive. It is important to know a good barrel broker who has access to quality barrels. The Lost Abbey uses Tom Griffin as their broker, and I found this great article about this man known as “the barrel guy.”

The future of barrel aging promises to be exciting. Possible problems for barrel aging programs will be with consistency since each barrel is its own environment. A few large breweries are experimenting with pasteurizing barrels coming into the brewery to create a sterile and more consistent environment within the barrel.  Other problems may arise with packaging especially with naturally carbonated beer since yeast may not be able to tolerate the higher alcohol concentrations. Supply can be another “problem,” because bourbon barrels hold 53 gallons and a typical wine barrel holds 55-65 gallons; beers that are barrel aged are produced in small quantities. The limited quantities and special releases create a frenzy and cult-following around barrel aged beers.

Below is a list of the beers we got to try in class.

  • 6th Anniversary Sucre from The Bruery – aged in French oak wine barrels from Madera (island in Portugal)
  • New French Oak Bois from The Bruery – same base beer as the 6th Anniversary Sucre but aged in new French oak barrels
  • The Lost Abbey Bottleworks 15th Anniversaryaged in Reposado and Anejo Tequila barrels from Jalisco
  • Older Viscosity from Port Brewing/ The Lost Abbey – aged in Bourbon barrels
  • Floyd de Rue aged in Rum barrels
  • Sede Vacante aged in Cognac barrels


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The Romantism of the Brewing Industry


It’s easy to dream about working in a brewery, especially when you are working on a computer all day. The thought of manual labor, the fun and social nature of the craft beer community, a passion for the product you are creating, a hobby turned profession – all are intoxicating. Jacob McKean from Modern Times gave a lecture in The Overview of Brewing class that snapped us all back into the reality of what it is really like to work in the brewing industry.

Jacob is the founder of Modern Times brewery in San Diego and gave us a very honest lecture on what it was like to start midsize brewery. He basically told us if you couldn’t imagine yourself starting a food processing business like a salsa company that we should NOT start a brewery. I couldn’t focus for about five minutes after that because, chips and salsa sounded so good during our 6:30-9:30pm class. But I got his point, starting a brewery is about starting a food processing business, and that is relatively unsexy.

Jacob outlined for us how he raised 1.25 million in capital over a six month period, how he launched a successful Kickstarter campain, and how he managed the construction of his brewery. Jacob is the only partner in the business, and, although this gives him the freedom to make all decisions and avoid potential conflict with other partners, it has created unbelievable workloads. He talked about the stress he was and continues to be under and the effects it has had on him. He used the blog on the brewery’s website as his therapy and documented the process of starting a brewery… I recommend his blog post entitled “Starting a Brewery is mostly not about Beer.”


I was most interested in Jacob’s discussion of what license he needed from the California Alcohol and Beverage Control to start the brewery.  Modern Times has a Type 23 license; this is a common license for microbreweries and brewpubs that produce under 60,000 barrels per year.  A Type 23 license authorizes the same privileges and restrictions as a Type 01 (large beer manufacture over 60,000 barrels per year) and allows for the use of six auxiliary licenses. A Type 23 license allows a brewery to manufacture beer, have tasting on premise, operate a restaurant adjacent to the premises with beer and wine sales, and sell beer in packages directly to consumers retailers and wholesalers(ABC). Breweries can use provisions to duplicate the Type 23 license as many times as they want, but the duplicated licenses only allow the sale of beer and not manufacturing (See 23389 of the CA ABC Act).  Modern Times will be employing this method to open a new tasting room in North Park.  Jacob talked about the risks involved in opening multiple tasting rooms under the same license: for example, if a bartender in one location serves beer to an underage person, the entire brewery may no longer be able to operate if the license is suspended.

In researching licenses I learned about “tied house” laws. Tied house laws apply both federally and at the state level and are meant to prevent one business or person in the alcohol industry from operating in more than one tier in the industry (there are three tiers: manufacturing, distribution, and retail). Dozens of exceptions to tied house laws have worked their way into the California ABC Act.  For example in the Type 23 licenses we see the tiers are not kept separate and can operate with 6 auxiliary licenses before running into a tied house conflict. (Check this website for more information). In my new found interest in licenses I have discovered the coffee shop I am currently writing in has a Type 41 liquor license so I can have both coffee and beer in the same place. :)

I have also taken to heart Jacob’s warning of how stressful working in the industry can be and have started a running group for our UCSD Brewing Program. The best way I have found to reduce stress is to hang out with friends and exercise. If you love beer and running come join our running group!


(image source)

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Spring Quarter 2014


This photo is from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in early spring.

Spring is upon us in San Diego, and it is time to register for the Spring Quarter in the UCSD Extension Brewing Certificate Program. This will be my last quarter (I hope) that I will take classes before I move on to the internship portion of the program. Students are required to finish all of their coursework before they start their internship. A few people in the program started internships early to carve their own path and have been told it will not count since they have yet to finish all of the classes, but they don’t mind too much since they are getting a ton of experience in a brewery. :)

The program is becoming more and more impacted as interest and enrollment are increasing. Talking to people in the program, many fear that tomorrow’s registration for classes will be a cross between Lord of the Flies and Comic-Con ticket registration.  The new classes being offered this quarter are:

The Origins and History of Beer

  • Instructor: Christopher McGreger
  • Days and Times: 2 Mondays, 2 Wednesdays, and a Saturday, April 14, 16, 21, 23, 6:30-9:30pm & April 19, 9:00am-2:00pm, 5 meetings

 Operations Management

  • Instructor(s): TBD
  • Days and Times: TBD, 6 meetings

Marketing & Distribution

  • Instructor(s): TBD
  • Days and Times: TBD, 6 meetings

Operations Management and the Marketing & Distribution class have yet to be nailed down.  Since the program is so new and this is the first time those classes are being offered, UCSD Extension is working on finding the right people to teach the class and finalizing the schedule. We will receive notice when everything has been worked out.  I am really hoping to take these classes so I can finish the program in one swoop. I think it is exciting to be a part of something so new, even if there are a few bumps in the road.

One of the situations creating the Comic-Con-esque frenzy of registering for classes is that students can take any class they want after they take the required Overview of Brewing Science and Technology taught by Yuseff Cherney.  If you are not on top of your email when registration begins it is not likely you will get the class you want; there is no hierarchy of classes, so popular classes are in high demand.  I will be tethered to my computer for registration tomorrow trying to get the last classes I need along with four other cohorts of students. Wish me luck!!!

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The Importance of Trademark Attorneys

The Overview of the Craft Brewing Industry class started this week with a lecture by Earl Knight, the Chief Commercial Officer from Ballast Point. This class is one unit and has two more lectures taught by Jacob McKean from Modern Times and Peter Zien from Alesmith.  Earl’s lecture focused on what contributes to the success and growth of a midsize brewery (100,000 barrels produced per year).

Earl went over the key elements that differentiate successful midsize breweries:

  • The production of award winning beer
  • Quality control
  • A solid core of people
  • The ability to increase capacity to meet demand
  • Good management
  • A solid business plan

Earl highlighted one mistake that is the downfall of a lot of small breweries: forgetting to include the distribution costs (on average 26%) into the price of packaged beer and kegs. It is important to include this even if a brewery is doing its own distribution. If a brewery grows, it will be critical to already have this included in the price so they don’t have to raise the prices when starting to use a distributor; it’s also important if a brewery wants to sell their distribution rights.

So where does the title of the post come in?… well, Earl pointed out the importance of hiring the right people with the correct skills for the job. So often in small breweries, the owners must act as a jack of all trades, but there comes a point in the growth of a brewery where the right people need to be in the right places within the company for it to succeed. The most important places to get the correct people are in finance, upper management, sales and marketing, and HR. He also suggested getting a good trademark attorney. Earl gave a couple of case studies on the importance of a trademark attorney: one case in which a large wine company (name omitted) wanted to buy the name of a brewery’s successful pale ale, and another case in which a brewery was sent a cease and desist letter for naming itself after a popular beer in San Diego.

I found these letters between a small brewery and a Starbucks attorney so funny; they also highlight the importance choosing a beer’s name carefully.  (Here is a link to the small brewery’s Facebook page where these letters were originally posted)


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Women and Beer Part II

Saturday March 8th is International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. Project Venus and The Pink Boots Society have organized this collaboration brew day in which over seventy different breweries around the world will be participating. Teams of women in the brewing industry will all brew a sessionable (4% ABV) Pal Ale called Unite and will add their own take and twist on the theme “Inspire Change.” Check out this article which talks about the San Diego women participating in this event.  I think this is an awesome event that inspires, encourages, and makes known women’s presence in the brewing industry.


I will be celebrating International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day in my first day of Barrel aging class. This class will be taught by Tomme Arthur from the Lost Abbey and Patrick Rue from The Bruery and will be five hours long on two Saturdays. Although I won’t be brewing Saturday, I did recently brew with another woman from the first cohort of students in the UCSD Extension Brewing Certificate Program. We brewed a version of Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Survival Seven Grain Stout to bring to the Technology of Brewing final.

Here are some pictures from our brew day and the awesome homebrew setup my friend has at her place.


While we were brewing we got to talking about women in brewing. I told her I had shared my take on women in brewing (see this post ), but I was interested in what she thought.  We spent most of our time talking about what lead to our interest in developing a career in the brewing industry rather than just being content with drinking and enjoying beer as a hobby. We both have science backgrounds that seem to fuel our desire to work in the industry. My friend is a chemist by training and loves how her passion for beer can also be combined with her love of science and engineering. Her kitchen looked like a chemistry lab as she meticulously adjusted the water chemistry of our brewing water. We eventually got off-topic during our discussion about women in the brewing industry and started going over the diagram of how glycol refrigeration systems work. :)

This month’s West Coaster Magazine had a lot of articles dedicated to women in brewing and I specifically liked the article “Women in the Brewplace” which highlighted the challenges of having a family while working in the craft brewing industry.  The author of the article points out that many of the women working in the beer industry do not work for themselves, and, in “striving to fit into the male-dominated craft beer culture, women may be keeping these types of issues (family-related) to themselves and turning down opportunities.” The author talks about how important it is for “employers to reach out and have frank and open conversations with female employees about how to help balance family life with the amazing opportunities the craft beer world has to offer.” Here is the link to the full article.

Resources for Women in Brewing:

  • If you are a woman and are looking to brew with other women check out SUDS Sorority, a new local homebrew club in San Diego.

Happy International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day!!!

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Finishing Practices

I took Finishing Practices during UCSD Extension’s Fall Quarter 2013, and it has been my favorite class so far in the UCSD Brewing Certificate Program. I am just getting to review this course because taking three classes in a quarter takes a lot of time!  If you decide to take the full load of classes every quarter, be prepared for three nights of classes that are three and a half hours and the other nights of your week doing homework.

Finishing Practices was taught by Nick Cain, Director of Quality Control at Ballast Point.  This class was much smaller than other classes – about 15 students – and probably the most intense.  Finishing practices, sometimes referred to as the “cold side” of brewing, are the processes through which a green beer is transformed into a polished beer. In this class we studied lagering, flavor maturation, dry hopping, cask beer, clarification-sedimentation, finings, filtration- centrifugation, carbonation, packaging, cleaning/sanitation, and waste water treatment.

The class had some awesome guest lectures. My favorite lectures were:

  • Dry Hopping and Cask Beer by Shawn Steele, Quality Control Manager from Karl Strauss
  • The Theory of Beer Clarification and Colloidal Stabilization by Peter Hoey, BSG Craft Brewing
  • Lagering: Post Fermentation and Maturation by Douglas Hasker, Gordon Biersch Brewery

There was also a lecture by a Dirk Loeffler, the technical director of Loeffler Chemical Corporation, about chemicals used in a brewery. This lecture was 147 slides long and scared some people in class due to some horrific slides of chemical burns and brewery accidents. Having worked in a lab, I thought this was probably the best lecture I have ever heard about working with chemicals and safety concerns. The take away lesson being:  Respect the chemicals you are working with and be educated on how to use chemicals safely.

The most valuable thing I learned in the class is how to set up and run a Diatomatious Earth (DE) filter. Nick Cain is an expert in how to work with Diatomacious Earth filters and he taught us how to troubleshoot if the filter does not run correctly.  Here is an example of a bonus question Nick asked us in class about setting up a DE filter:

Using a filter flow basis of 4bbl/hr/m2 and a dose rate of 150 grams of DE per bbl of beer filtered calculate how many barrels of beer you could process before you ran out of sludge holding capacity (assuming max pressure of filter not reached and constant flow rate maintained) on a DE powder horizontal leaf filter that has 20 leaves, each of which has a surface area of 0.2m2 and a gap between screens of 2cm? Assume a DE cake filter bed density of 320kg/m3. And how long would this filter run take in hours?

As a project in the class, we were put into groups, given a contact at a local brewery to meet with and discuss the “cold side” of brewing, and asked to report back with a presentation to the rest of the class. This assignment was a lot of fun; my group got to tour Stone and then met up at the new Ballast Point location in Little Italy to put together our presentation.  Ironically our group ran into Greg Koch, CEO & Co-Founder of Stone, and showed him our presentation that night!


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Attack of the craft beer cans…

Young Hickory 1

Have you noticed that a lot of your favorite craft beer now comes in retro styled cans; it seems to be all the rage right now. Personally, I like the movement, it reminds me of growing up in the 80’s and watching people sipping out of cream colored Coors cans. I have been wondering if it is just a trend or what the reasoning is behind the craft beer scene embracing the can once again.

The canning of beer began in the 1933 when American Can released its first can that could withstand pressure and had a lining to prevent the beer from interacting with the tin-plating. Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company picked up the can and became the first brewer to sell its beer in cans in the USA. Canned beer steadily increased in popularity, as they did not require a deposit like bottles, and exploded in the market during World War II when brewers began shipping millions of cans overseas to soldiers. (History Channel)


Acme Beer

The first cans imparted a metallic taste to the beer, and people invented ways to hide that flavor: salt and lime anyone? The cans used now have a special liner that prevents any metallic taste from being imparted into the beer. It is possible to pick up a slight metallic taste due to drinking out of the lid of the can, but overall, the taste of the beer should not be affected by the can. Our preconceived notions and associations with drinking beer out of a can may interfere with what we actually taste. In the Technology of Brewing class we did a triangle test (pour three beers: two are the same one is different, ask the person to tell you which one is different), to see if we could detect which beer was canned or bottled.  We could detect the canned beer but that was due to a defect in the experiment: the canned beer was colder. Try the test for yourself at home, keep all the variables the same, and try it with a canned Ballast Point Sculpin and a bottle of Sculpin. Can you tell the difference?

The biggest benefit to canning beer is that it protects your beer from light better than any bottle. The hops in your beer will not be able to interact with light to form the dreaded 3-MTB “skunk” (see this post). Canned beer is also easier to pack in and pack out of events, I will definitely be packing some cans for tonight’s San Diego Supercross event. There are drawbacks to canning beer, for one it is not that much cheaper than bottling. It requires its own canning system, the art work that is available for cans is limited to simpler designs, intricate art work on bottle labels do not translate well in printing cans.

In our last Brewing and Technology class we went over canning systems and I took this shot of what a can looks like before it gets filled.


Most small canning systems employ a similar concept to “beer gun” with a CO2 purge and fill into a non-pressurized can.  The beer will be carbonated inline on the way to the bright tank, or carbonated in the bright tank, and then transferred to the bowl of the filler station where it sits with a blanket of CO2 to keep oxygen out.  From there a tube fills the empty can with CO2 to purge out oxygen, then the can is filled with beer, and then the top of the can is put in place and sealed on.  Canning if done properly can lead to very low dissolved oxygen.

There are mobile canning services her in San Diego, which may provide packaging solutions for small start up breweries but without a dissolved oxygen meter to monitor how the systems is performing, the brewer is at the mercy of the canning company.  Here are some cool videos of a small canning system from Wild Goose, Boulder Co and a rotary can filler from the German company KHS.

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The Technology of Brewing

In our Technology of Brewing course, taught by Yuseff Cherney, we are learning about pumps, valves, and clamps used in a brewery. Below is a photo I took of all the pumps before we disassembled them and learned about how they work and their advantages and disadvantages.

See that blue pump in the lower corner of the photo? It looked like a great pump until we opened it up and saw that the inside was made up of rusted cast iron! Choosing to use this pump to move sterile or even non-sterile liquid in the brewing process would result in a beer with a metallic taste due to the rust. Lesson learned: open up your pumps if you are buying them second hand!


The Technology of Brewing class offers a ton of practical brewery knowledge. In the first class, we went over blueprints of breweries, and discussed design flaws and what improvements could be made to promote safety and future expansion.  I am currently preparing for our next class on water and water treatment in a brewery by reading this Water and Wastewater: Treatment/Volume Reduction Manual from the Brewers Association.

Scholarship Opportunity:  I just saw that that UCSD Brewing Program is partnering with San Diego-based Karl Strauss Brewing Company to offer two scholarships in 2014 for the program! Scholarships will be awarded based on the applicant’s personal statement and completion of prerequisites. Here is a link to where I found the information on the Scholarship, I hope you get it!!!!

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Portland, Oregon

During the winter break, my husband and I took a trip of a lifetime to Portland, OR. Everyone laughs at me when I say it was the trip of a lifetime, but I have wanted to go to Portland forever. Not to stereotype the place, but a city that has a lot of coffee, beer, and books is a place where I belong.

We drove from San Diego to Portland with a stop in San Francisco, a brief three hour visit to Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, and a surprisingly fun stay in Roseburg, Oregon. We stopped in Sierra Nevada even though it is about an hour and a half off course to Portland because it is the Disney of all breweries. Ken Grossman is the mastermind behind Sierra Nevada and wrote about starting the brewery in a book called Beyond the Pale, which I am currently reading.

Sierra Nevada is committed to sustainable practices, like recapturing CO2 from the fermentation process and using it to carbonate their beer. Check out their sustainability page which shows their on-site power generation from solar fuel cells. They have a unique way of dry hopping their beer using a torpedo (it’s a device in which beer is circulated through hops and back to the fermentation tank), and they have the coolest bike racks! The beer I enjoyed the most while we were there was Beer Camp: Belgian-style Black IPA. I also found out that Sierra Nevada will be opening another brewery in western North Carolina outside of Asheville in the summer of 2014.

Sierra Nevada_1

On the road again, we hit our driving limit for the day and pulled into Roseburg, OR for the night. The woman running the motel suggested we try the McMenamins brewpub down the street. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I had never heard of this McMenamins before but was happy to spend the foggy evening checking out the Roseburg brewpub which is housed in an old southern pacific train station. That night I learned that McMenamins is a chain of brewpubs throughout Oregon, and each has its own theme and are usually in historic buildings, the most popular being the Kennedy School. As it turns out the Roseburg Station Brewpub was my favorite stop of all the breweries and brewpubs throughout Oregon, and I credit that fact to the McMenamins Irish Stout on Nitro I enjoyed.

Once in Portland, we had plenty of breweries to check out! I had heard a lot about Hopworks Urban Brewery in the UCSD Brewing Program and we stopped there first. This brewery is the poster child for Portland; they have all organic beers that they serve at their bike bar in their sustainably built brewpub.  I don’t think I have ever felt more hipstered out than while drinking a HUB beer and having vegan fries and gravy while instagramming photos of my beer. :)



Over the next couple of days, we hit more breweries: Deschutes, Cascade, Hair of the Dog, and another McMenamins.  Cascade was my favorite brewery in Portland; their focus is on sour beers. At Cascade I enjoyed the White Cherry Velvet American Wild Ale. I am very partial to sours, so if that is your thing, I would definitely recommend Cascade.  In between beers we explored other aspects of Portland; we walked along the Willamette, bought books at Powell’s Bookstore, and hiked around the beautiful Multnomah Falls.  It was a trip of a life time, but I do hope it happens again. :)

At the risk of becoming one of those people who trap you and make you look at all of their vacation photos, I have made a collage for your quick viewing pleasure!


If your interested in learning more about the Portland craft beer scene check out this episode of Brew Dogs.

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