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.