R&I alumni brews up a passion for all things beer, distilling and spirits

Gaurab Devkota is a 2022 graduate of the Artisan Distilling program, as well as a 2023 graduate of the International Business Management program. He worked with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre as a Distillery Research Assistant from October 2021 to April 2022. He now works at Collective Arts Brewing as a Senior Brewer. Read on to learn about his journey to success.

What year did you graduate and what program?

I enrolled in Niagara College’s Artisan Distilling program in September 2021 and graduated in May 2022. After taking few months off, I also took the International Business Management program at Niagara College Toronto and graduated in 2023.

What led you to want to go to Niagara College in the first place?

After graduating from university with a degree in food science, I worked in the alcoholic beverage industry for five years. At that time, I got a chance to learn Asian and European cultures of brewing and distilling but still I wasn’t as familiar with the American style of alcoholic beverage production. I wanted to learn more about craft brewery and distillery because my wife and I had dreams of starting our own business. After lots of research, I found Niagara College offered the right degree for my career goals. Before attending, I went through the College’s testimonials, studied the Canadian beverage industry, created my own road map to achieve my goal to gain a few years of Canadian beverage industry’s experience and then decided to apply to Niagara College.

When did you work with Research & Innovation? Years and what was your role?

I worked with Research & Innovation (R&I) from October 2021 to April 2022. I was hired as a Distillery Research Assistant and was directly involved in food and beverage research related tasks. My main duties included:

• New food and beverage product formulation with the Food & Beverage Innovation Centre team
• Helping the FBIC Research Lead make prototypes of products
• Run laboratory and sensory analysis tasks
• Write reports
• Product and ingredient resourcing

I was also involved in brewery pilot plant related research.

Describe where you’re at now in your life / career. What are you up to?

I’m currently working as a Senior Brewer at Collective Arts Brewing (Collective Arts) in Hamilton, Ontario. Collective Arts is one of the leading craft breweries in Canada producing varieties of award-winning Lagers, India Pale Ale, Portor, Pilsner, and more.

My role in the brewery is directly related to production and quality control. I’m responsibilities for quality production of wort, wort transfer, fermentation monitoring, beer filtration, CO2 addition and basic quality analysis. I’m also responsible for mentoring new brewers, making shift work reports, suggesting recipes to management, work order submissions, and other related tasks.

I also work as a freelance research consultant helping distilleries, breweries, and wineries in Ontario with product development and quality control.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare for the workforce?

Before joining R&I, I had no experience in the Canadian workforce. Getting to work the division allowed me to become comfortable with the Canadian working style and helped me become more focused on goal-oriented tasks. At the College, I gained soft skills like self-confidence, as well as the hard technical skills like laboratory experience, report writing and product development. These skills have been applicable in my current job at Collective Arts Brewing.  

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

One memorable project I worked on at R&I was a sour and oxidized wine. I had to do research on natural ingredients to neutralize the extra acidity and mask the off flavour. We managed to make this product drinkable, and later, our the FBIC Research Lead came up with more brilliant ideas. Another project that stood out was one I did for Wild Lot Farm Distillery where I was one of the key researchers who helped develop new alcoholic beverages (ready-to-drink gins and teas).

Do have any special memories during your time as a student at NC?

Yes, I have many memories at NC during my time as a student. Among them, working with Professor Jacklyn in the R&I labs after her lecture was special. She was kind, helpful, and resourceful. Along with learning from her, I also got the chance to show my product development and sensory skills.

Do you have a mentor who influenced you?

I consider my wife, Suja, as my influencer. She has the same educational background as me and was working in wine industry in Nepal. She inspires me to achieve more at every moment. The way she encourages me to be the best is impressive.

What advice would you give to a current student?

It can be hard to land your dream job, but it’s not impossible. My advice, especially for international students, is not to study a degree that you’re not passionate about. Try to get some experience in your interested field before coming to NC. Don’t lose hope – try and try until you find your own path and be optimistic! I failed many times, and have experienced rejection, but have now found a dream job and succeeded. Other people see only success, but you’re the one who faces the failure, you’re the one who knows how hard you worked in your early career. Don’t worry – all will be well soon.

Since graduating, what have you learned? Are there specific examples from jobs you’ve done since that you want to share?

During school, I learned basic practices of fermentation and distillation process. We learned to make small batches but at my job, I control hundreds more batches. I studied artisan distilling with previous experience in distillery and later, joined the brewery side. Brewing is somewhat different from distillery. After graduation, I learned more about beer filtration, centrifuging, CO2 addition in beer, canning and co-packing.

What do you do in your personal time?

In my personal time, I love to write poems and articles. Apart from that, market research, stock market analysis and e-commerce business planning are my interests. I also go out with my wife and enjoy the surroundings.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

I have very good performance feedback at Collective Arts. I have rescued a few large batches of beer with correctly monitoring the glycol cooling and acidity. Getting promoted to Senior Brewer at Collective Arts Brewing after graduating from Niagara College Toronto was one of the proudest moments for me.

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

“Brew with passion, craft with joy, pack with love – that’s ‘you’ after all.”