Hi everyone! My name is Matthew Taylor, and I’m in my third year studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. Earlier this year from February 2nd-11th, I attended a BEST course called “Brewing & Distilling: The Wizard of –OH”. I’m here to share that experience with you!
I chose the course because
- I’m really interested in distillation, it’s a major part of chemical engineering (a discipline which I love)
- because it was in Austria (a country which I’ve never visited before) and
- because learning to distill/brew your own alcoholic beverages is pretty cool.
The coolest things we learned in the course were how to distill our own gin (we used a distillation column and got to take around 300 mL home for ourselves!) and how to brew our own beer (we made around 44 L overall!). We also learned a lot about the history and theory behind brewing and distilling. Below is a photo of my distilling team.
The main organizers of the course were Lejla and Stefan. They were some awesome organizers who worked tirelessly to put together an amazing course. Although, I can’t give them all of the credit for the course and what everyone got out of it: I’d have to thank the main organizers, Local Best Group (LBG) Graz, the “crashers” from Vienna and Maribor (and any other crashers that showed up; there were a lot of people I met on the course), the co-organizers, the participants, and anyone else who made the course so incredible!
Of course, academics were not the only part of the course. Social activities were another major component of the course. Some of my favourites were when we hiked up a mountain (definitely a new experience, because I’m from Saskatchewan!) and when we went on a pub crawl challenge where completing different activities earning your team points (my team won, of course). Below is a group photo of everyone at the top of the mountain, as well as me singing “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears with some of my team members in a pub to win points.
I’ve been to Europe before so there weren’t any big surprises, but I did run into a couple of little surprises. For example, Austrians don’t use water fountains, so they just fill up water bottles at a sink. Bottled sparkling water is also far more common than mineral water, since everyone gets their water from the sink. The first time I opened a bottle of water was a real shock for me so I just filled up my own bottle from then on.
I’m happy that the CFES have a partnership with BEST so we can go on these amazing courses! Overall, going to Graz for a course on brewing and distilling was one of the best experiences of my academic career. I learned a lot, made some new friends, and got a small taste of what it was like to be a student in Europe.
My three takeaways from this course are
- be prepared to have very little sleep (courses are very busy, but it’s worth it to not sleep),
- be prepared to get hands on experience on your course rather than just theoretical knowledge (for example, members of my brewing team were involved in everything from milling the malt until the fermentation process), and
- to go on a BEST course whenever you have the chance to do so.
I hope to go on another BEST course soon, and I hope to see some more Canadians at the courses too!