As part of Ornery Ales' annual effort to celebrate (Inter)National Homebrew Day, they create a video featuring brewers from around the world brewing and talking about beer, and it's an incredibly fun mash-up (no pun intended) of a global cast of brewers showing off their systems, beers, and personalities. Beer Simple offered to shamelessly shill for an international brewer or brewers who showcased the simplicity of beer and brewing. The entrant that caught this blog's attention satisfied that criterion by mashing and sparging in what looks like a six-litre (we're going with European spellings in this here post - deal with, Americans) pot, chilling in a sink ice bath, and bottling up about 13 bottles. Being a fan of small-batch brewing, I knew we'd found our perfect fit.
And I was completely wrong. Well, sort-of. Because although their video was a perfect encapsulation of simple, small-batch brewing, the program that created that video was anything but simple!
See, the brewers in question are four Honours (again, European. Seriously, move past it.) students at the University of Wageningen who had, in fact, created a MOOC (that's a Massive Online Open Course - a distance learning-compatible educational device that may provide higher education options at much lower prices by enrolling thousands of students, free or near-free, in online courses) titled "The Science of Beer." Sander & Esther (Food Science), Florence (Land & Water Management), and Nico (Management and Consumer Studies) brewed their first beer for the video!
Their story is fascinating, and follows:
What motivated you all to develop the Science of Beer course?
So we are four students participating in the Honours Programme of the University of Wageningen. As part of this Honours Programme we were supposed to start a two year (research) project to the 'university of the future'. As genuine students, and yes, this may sound somewhat surprising: we ended up making a course about beer. In fact we started the research project with doing interviews with people mainly from politics and universities. We wanted to know how they saw the 'university of the future' and, it turned out, several interviewees thought the university should transmit more knowledge to the public. Now, how do you better transmit knowledge to the public by developing a Massive Open Online Course? (for information about MOOCs, please check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DavEhc1wds). That's what we did. We decided it would be a MOOC about the science that is behind a beer. And then, why beer? Well, we realised that we could investigate the science behind beer from many perspectives such as production, raw materials, marketing and health effects, which could be perfectly linked to the different research domains of Wageningen University. And, of course, there is no better topic than beer to attract students!
Who is it for?
The course is open for anyone with an interest in the science behind beer. The course was designed as an introductory course, so experienced beer brewers shouldn't expect too much complexity, but with the four perspectives (production, raw materials, marketing and health effects), we think, there is always something to learn for everyone.
How long have you been brewing?
he truth is: the video of us brewing at home was only our first time making beer! Therefore, we were even more happy to see that our video was selected as the winner. In the video, we are brewing an Irish Red Ale and we were surprised by the good taste. Perhaps we will continue our brewing experiences in the future.
Here are two videos of our home brewing experience [Author's Note: YOU WANT TO WATCH THE BLOOPER REEL!]:
- The home brewing video https://youtu.be/T6g-aVC9_uc
- Bloopers home brewing https://youtu.be/BKKgL7_hVd8
How does teaching affect your appreciation of beer and brewing?
During the making of our online course, we started trying as many different beer styles as possible. We were getting better in distinguishing the typical tastes associated with the different beer styles and we developed our preferences. Now that we have learned so much about all the science that is behind a seemingly simple pint of beer, we have the feeling that we started appreciating our beers more. But, more importantly, we have become more aware of the health effects of drinking beer. Perhaps, we turned into more conscious drinkers
What was the best tip you ever received about beer/brewing?
In our opinion the most important tip we received is to make sure you're brewing under sterile conditions. Often, we hear people say their brewing failed and they stop attempting afterwards. That's a pity! [AUTHOR'S NOTE: Definitely a shame. It's like going skiing for the first time and being pushed down a double-black-diamond trail called "The Preacher." You're not gonna have a good time, and your frustration will push you out of the hobby. Keep it clean out there...]
Favorite beer/style? Least favorite?
Sander prefers a Porter, Nico goes for a Blond beer, Esther for a Stout and Florence for an Irish Red ale.
On the other side: you don't make Sander too happy with a pilsener, Nico doesn't enjoy a Stout very much, Esther is not a fan op IPA and Florence not of a pilsener or IPA.
Strangest thing about beer culture in the Netherlands?
That's a good question, we are not so sure about typical Dutch things. But I (Nico) experienced myself: in the Netherlands, we mainly drink pilseners and we've all got strong opinions on which brand is good to drink and which brand is definitely not. But it turns out that, when tasting different pilseners blindfolded, hardly anyone recognizes which taste belongs to which brand and a 'bad' brand might suddenly be not too bad after all. [AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is spot-on. It's almost impossible to identify specific beers using nothing more than your palate.]
Besides that, something the Netherlands is known for is of course cycling. Dutch people always take the bicycle and it is not unusual to see 'bike jams' over here. In line with the Dutch cycle culture, if you come to a city in the Netherlands, it is possible to see the so-called 'beerbikes': pubs-on-wheels for 10 to 20 people.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thought this was hilarious and ingenious in equal parts. In fact, here's a video of it in action. It's on my to-do list the next time I'm in the Netherlands! If your sound is on, note the distinctly American soundtrack...]
Where can our readers find out more information about the course?
Nico wrote a blog about our online beer course:
Thanks to Nico, Sander, Esther, and Florence for being such great sports and supporters of beer and brewing!
Keep it simple.
Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link! Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).