Category Archives: Food & Beverage Innovation Centre

R&I grad recipient of the 2022 Donna Messer Women in Food Industry Management Scholarship Award

Zhansaya Ingkarbek
Zhansaya Ingkarbek, recipient of the 2022 Donna Messer Scholarship from the Women in Food Industry Association.

Niagara College’s Research & Innovation (R&I) would like to congratulate grad Zhansaya Ingkarbek on being the 2022 recipient of the Donna Messer Women in Food Industry Management Scholarship Award.

Zhansaya is a graduate of the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program and was a Food Science Research Assistant during her time at Niagara College, supporting the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC). She now works at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre as a Research Technician.

The Women in Food Industry Management (WFIM) is proud to recognize the value of female students graduating from studies related to the Food Industry. For this reason, WFIM sponsors this scholarship to recognize, reward, and support academic merit and a commitment to the food industry.

Congratulations Zhansaya!

Brewing a passion for NC graduate

Ian Evans is a spring 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program. He worked as a Brewery Student with Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is now employed with Kensington Brewing Company Inc., as a Brewer.

Tell us about where you work:

I work as a Brewer at Kensington Brewery Company Inc. This brewery has a small brew pub in Toronto’s Kensington Market and a larger production site in Vaughan.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As a Brewer, I work with a small production team which means you get your hands on all parts of the process – from brewing to cleaning tanks, filtration, and packaging.

I enjoy the work and how it varies day-by-day and the sense of accomplishment seeing what you have achieved at the end of a work day.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

My time working with Research & Innovation definitely helped me bring lab skills to my real-world brewery career. It was valuable to be able to tell employers that I’ve helped work on bringing a new product to market at my time with R&I.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

As a brewing student, getting to see the long process it takes to test hops was interesting. It is a lot of hard work and time to get the information that is important to hop growers and brewers.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

The Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program brought me to Niagara College. I had decided I wanted to pursue brewing and this program is highly regarded. I was able to attend Niagara’s Brew Academy before signing up for the Brewmaster program and it was during that event that I knew I wanted to study at Niagara College.

Most memorable experience at NC?

I was lucky enough to participate in the Be World Ready trip to Munich, Germany. We got to go to places and see things that we would not have been able to see as students. It was a great, informative, and fun trip.

 “Your time at the College is very short, and you have access to the best equipment and people to teach you. Use that time wisely, learn as much as you can, and be hands on as much as possible.”

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

Victor North, Brew Student Liaison, in the School of Food & Wine Sciences, is the reason I signed up for the Beer Judge Certification Program test. I passed and am now a Certified Beer Judge. This has opened many opportunities for me and has led me to judge many competitions since graduating. I’ve also gotten to meet many people in the industry through judging and it has helped me expand my professional network.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Your time there is very short, and you have access to the best equipment and people to teach you. Use that time wisely, learn as much as you can, and be hands on as much as possible.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

There is always a lot to continually learn. I think it’s important to keep asking questions and learn why things are done a certain way. Knowing and understanding new concepts can lead to improved ways of doing things.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

I worked with my Head Brewer at Kensington Brewing Company Inc. to design a beer that went on to win a gold medal at the 2020 Canadian Brewing Awards, a silver at the 2022 Ontario Brewing Awards, and a silver at the inaugural Canada Beer Cup. So, I have to say this is one of the proudest achievements I’ve gotten since graduating from NC.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

NASA is currently testing a new rocket to bring humans back to the moon. The pictures they are able to send back to show the world of the moon are awe inspiring, so I’m pretty interested in that right now.

Interests outside of work? 

I read a lot, with my favourite genre being science fiction. Outside of work, you can also find me playing video games or enjoying biking in the summer.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

“Be you.”

Helping brewers take quality to the next level goal of NC-led craft brew quality program

Lab Technologist Kelly Byer with Research Assistant Ricardo Rovella de Araujo conducting a brewery quality check with an Anton Paar density meter to measure wort sugar concentration.

Since the 1980s, the craft brewing industry has grown to include 24% of all beer made in Canada. Of key importance now for the growing industry is developing a systemic way to increase quality assurance and consistency and control measures in the products sold to the public.

The Craft Brewer Quality project idea started at Niagara College’s Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC) and arose from the results of their 2018 Ontario Craft Brewery Beer Quality Review, in which almost 200 Ontario craft beer samples were assessed for quality. “We wanted to follow up on that study”, said Kelly Byer, Laboratory Technologist, “and give the brewers the tools they need to increase quality.”

This new project brings together partners from three provinces including Niagara College, Durham College, Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, and Olds College. The program is focused on collaboratively developing a framework of industry standards and guidelines, with guidance from industry experts.

The goal is to create a Craft Brewer Quality program, which will be piloted across the country with industry experts, brewers, and students.

These guidelines will be operationalized into customized written quality programs and the concepts will be proven in partnership with 16 small- and medium-sized breweries across New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta.

Analytical testing at key points during the project will gauge the effectiveness of the standards.

At every step, students will be trained alongside industry partners, exemplifying work-integrated learning, and capacity building for the businesses. Ultimately, the intellectual property will be assigned to industry association partners for potential adoption upon project completion.

The craft brew quality program shows Niagara College’s commitment to supporting the craft beer industry in its ongoing growth and development, as well as that of all contributing partners. This program allows for great practical experience for the students, but also benefits the small- and medium-sized breweries that we are working alongside.

“Making a consistent high-quality beer is more important than ever in this climate of increasing inflationary and supply chain cost issues especially for smaller-scale craft breweries,” notes Adrian Popowycz, professor, School of Beer, Wine & Spirits.

“Consistently made, good quality beer makes for consistently good (and happy) repeat customers. So, another key goal of this project is that we want to give our brewery partners tools to help achieve that goal.”

Staff working on the project from Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick noted this is much-needed research for the industry. “For the last 10 years, we (Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick) have worked with craft alcohol producers and seen many challenges and opportunities. We are keen to unify efforts across Canada to support the evolving craft brewing industry. A cohesive resource, outlining product quality standards, will benefit the growing industry,” says Mike Doucette, Senior Researcher, Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick.

“Making a consistent high-quality beer is more important than ever in this climate of increasing inflationary and supply chain cost issues especially for smaller-scale craft breweries.”

– Adrian Popowycz, professor, NC’s School of Beer, Wine & Spirits

The team at Durham College had this to say about their experience in being part of the craft brew quality project. “Durham College is pleased to be part of this collaborative effort of Canadian Colleges to support our craft brewing industry, grow and prosper,” says Chris Gillis, manager, Applied Research Business Development at Durham College. “This project signals a milestone for craft brewing in Canada by defining what being a professional craft brewer means. Such a great opportunity for craft brewery project participants to hone their craft and for our students to learn from industry experts.”

Olds College had a similar sentiment about the importance of the craft brew quality project. “Olds College of Agriculture & Technology is proud to partner with Niagara College, Durham College, and Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick in continuing to foster robust, science-based growth and development in Canada’s brewery sector via our participation in the Craft Brew Quality Program,” adds Peter Johnston-Berresford, Lecturer & Researcher, Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management, Olds College. “Brewery partners in Alberta in conjunction with the Alberta Small Brewers’ Association, plus breweries and trade associations from across Canada, have all come together to work toward developing a coherent set of brewing standards.”

“Breweries, brewery educational programming and brewing research will all benefit from this trans-national effort, not just now, but for years to come,” says Johnston-Berresford.

This project has been made possible by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in the Applied Research and Technology Partnership (ARTP) program. The grant of $1,789,330 million over two years will be used for this pilot Craft Brewer Quality program.

NOW HIRING: Culinary Research Assistant with our Food & Beverage Innovation Centre team

Research Assistant, Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC)

The Research Assistant will be enrolled in the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology or related food and beverage program. The successful candidate will work on a variety of projects and skill-building tasks. This includes assisting across various projects focusing on, but not limited to: new product development, product optimization and scale-up for production, shelf-life and packaging studies, and food safety and traceability. In addition, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work on various other food and beverage related tasks, participate in networking/conference events and communications/outreach projects.

See the full FBIC Research Assistant job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, September 23rd, 2021 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, program of study, year or term in which you are currently enrolled, and school schedule (if available) to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘Research Assistant‘ in the subject line.


We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

NC expert to speak at craft brewers’ event

Research Lab Technologist Kelly Byer will once again be contributing her considerable expertise in craft brewing and hops quality during a provincial event this fall.

Byer, of the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre, will be involved in several sessions at the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference Oct. 25 and 26, in our own backyard venue of the Niagara Falls Convention Centre.

In a session entitled “Ontario Hops Quality: OHGA” Byer will discuss the five-year analytical testing work with the Ontario Hops Growers Association as part of an effort to produce high-quality hops for the craft beer industry.

Byer will then join Adrian Popowycz, NC professor with the Brewmaster Brewery Management programs, and Dirk Bendiak, Ontario Craft Brewers Tech Consultant, for a session entitled “Building & Improving Quality Programs.” Aspects of the talk include a review of the changes to the definition of beer, label changes, legal and critical aspects of a quality program of a brewery. The talk will also highlight what aspects of a quality program in terms of outside testing and confirmation may be useful for a small brewery when not available internally. 

Full conference details are speakers are available on the website.

Former brewmaster lands role piloting new food products

Brad Barta knows his job title of Product Plant Production Specialist doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

It’s a long title for a big job that’s made up of many small moving and mighty parts.

The one-line plot summary is that Barta manages the small-batch production of beverages and liquid food products in Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, for companies to test those items with consumers or ramp up to industrial-scale production.

“So instead of a client having to start with making 20,000 litres, a client can start with 100 litres, 200 litres or even 1,000 litres on this system,” Barta explains.

Barta knows well the art and science of craft production. Until he started with Research & Innovation, he was the Lead Brewer for six years at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, training future brewmasters how to use a pilot brewing system for their hoppy creations.

He had no idea there was another pilot system on campus outside of the brewery, so when the Product Plant Production Specialist job was posted – an opening he discovered while helping a family member’s job search – he realized he checked all the boxes.


He met each of the top criteria and achieved that elusive purple squirrel status for having precisely the right qualifications for the gig.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a learning curve since Barta started his new job in May. Take the ultra-high temperature pasteurizer/homegenizer he uses that reaches 3,500 units of pressure (PSI) compared to the usual 15 PSI he was accustomed to working with at the teaching brewery. Barta has been “reading manuals, manuals and manuals” to learn how to safely operate it. There are 300 pages of in-depth instructions to get familiar with the tool for good reason.

“One thing I love about Research & Innovation is there just seems to be a lot of growth in this field.”

“The one piece of equipment that makes me nervous is the homogenizer,” Barta says with a laugh. “I say to my students (jokingly), if something goes wrong, leave the building because it may take half the building with it.”

Still, becoming a master of the homogenizer means being able to test out potential products made with dairy or dairy substitutes. The machine could help with making the next big thing in baby food, too, for example.

It’s not beer, but any product Barta helps develop still requires the same creativity demanded by a crowd-pleasing brew. That’s the best part of the job, he says.

Barta and the CFWI Innovation Centre team can work with clients, coming up with a list of ingredients and, with the help of students, turn those parts into a potentially viable product. Barta doesn’t get discouraged if a pilot project isn’t perfect on the first try. He’s currently on the third trial for one product and loving every moment of its evolution with input from the client.

“With every step, there has been improvement and that fuels your energy,” he said.

So does travelling when Barta has time away from the office, especially when it involves food and beer. Spoiler alert: It usually does, whether it’s close to home on Bruce Trail hikes followed by winery lunches with his wife, Helen, or something farther afield.

One of his most memorable trips was spending six weeks in New Zealand. Brewing beer at Weihenstephan at the Technical University of Munich ranks up there, too.

“Every place is so different. You can go to a remote village in Mexico and it’s so vastly different than resorts and that sort of thing,” Barta says. “Then it’s ‘Hey, let’s go to Germany and check out the beer.’”

His favourite suds to sip are pilsners, which he might try making on his own now that the home brewing that led him to the College in the first place can be a hobby again rather than a continuation of his day job. 

“Give me (a pilsner) made with precision and executed perfectly and I’m happy, happy,” Barta says.

Much like he is in his new position, where he’s busy getting up to speed, moving smaller projects forward and getting bigger projects going.

“One thing I love about Research & Innovation is there just seems to be a lot of growth in this field,” he says. “People said (when I applied for this job), there’s a lot of potential there, a lot of growth. They recommended I do it. It’s a bit of a change but it means that I can stay with Niagara College.”