Meet Ian Morrison, a Beverage Production Research Associate with Niagara College’s Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC).
For Ian, his role has no “average” days: “My day takes me anywhere from working on the lab analysis project for hops working with [Research Lab Technologist] Kelly Byer, to working on beer samples where we receive product from clients that need to be tested before they send it out to the LCBO.
“The craft brew quality project is a big focus of mine right now. We’re trying to create a standard across Canada for craft beer quality. Our role is to help them in building better quality management for their breweries, so focusing on pieces like better traceability, improved consistency and more,” says Ian.
In the lab, Ian and the FBIC team are working on different reviews for the breweries right now. They are checking things such as labels to ensure they are meeting government standards; analytical tests including alcohol percentage, IBUs, colour – you name it, they are checking it.
They will be doing this over the next year to develop custom quality management plans based on the size of their brewery and helping them implement the plans. After the breweries have been working with the plans for a few months, Ian will get feedback from them to understand how well the plans have been working, where they can improve and make changes.
They will wrap the project up with final visits and finalizing any of the plans that needed updates. “This whole project is going to help us paint a better picture of the craft brew industry across Canada and help us help the breweries make the best possible product for the consumer. It’s all about consistency – this will lead to better sales and loyalty to the brewery,” says Ian.
Additionally, Ian is active in the beverage pilot plant and assists in training students and developing their skills.
“The coolest part of working with R&I is that you never know, you could be walking the aisles of the LCBO or a grocery store, and see a product that you actually worked on and had an impact on either commercializing, testing or analyzing, and that’s just awesome.”
– Ian Morrison, Beverage Production Research Associate
Ian began his career in brewing by working in two breweries. At both sites, the head brewers at the time suggested that he consider taking Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program. Both of those colleagues were graduates of the program, and raved to Ian about how much they enjoyed the program and what they got out of it.
With those positive reviews in hand, Ian successfully applied, studied and graduated from the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program in 2022.
“When I worked at two breweries at the beginning of my career, I was able to develop all my practical skills, but I wanted to improve on the theory aspect of brewing and gain a deeper knowledge on brewing practices, recipes and lab experience, so the Brewmaster program was exactly what I needed to add to my education and resume to perfect those skills. It really helped make me be a well-rounded professional,” says Ian.
We all know the saying, you get out as much as you put in, and that is something that rings true for Ian – calling himself a self-professed keener.
“I got a lot out of the professors during my time as a student. I sort of constantly reached out to them and tried to pick everybody’s brain. I was and still am someone who likes to always be learning but also share knowledge I have with both my colleagues and students,” he notes.
All of this hard work is what helped Ian, while he was still a student, land his current role.
“I started out working with R&I as a student in the role of Research Assistant. As that contract came to an end, I was then offered the Research Associate position, which was really a great opportunity for me.”
Ian was able to build on what he was working on as the Research Assistant and really take projects to the next level as the Research Associate and grow with the division.
“I’ve been furthering my skill set, doing more lab testing and specialization, which is what I know will help me grow as a professional.”
Ian feels lucky to be working with such a talented and passionate team. “Everybody’s great here. There’s a lot of passionate students that we’ve hired lately who are really skilled and smart. I get the opportunity to onboard and mentor them a bit in my role which I’ve really been enjoying,” he says.
For those thinking about applying to a student position, or a full-time position, Ian has this to say: “Working with R&I provides a great opportunity to learn and develop your skills, especially for students. You will use equipment that is state-of-the-art, that some breweries would never have access to, and you’ll be working on projects that will give you real-world client experience, that can help you branch out in your future career.
“Some days, they pick my brain for practical brew skills and other days, I’ll pick their brain for their backgrounds in chemistry, or science. We’ve created an environment where everyone is willing to learn from others and it makes for a great fit for everyone.”
In his free time, not surprisingly, you can find Ian visiting breweries, digging into brewing articles or books, or researching brew-related topics.
“The coolest part of working with R&I is that you never know, you could be walking the aisles of the LCBO or a grocery store and see a product that you actually worked on and had an impact on either commercializing, testing or analyzing, and that’s just awesome.”