Brewing beer: from shovelling grain and scrubbing tanks to a degree in Engineering
A tale of two brewers and a union of North American and European brewing techniques
Chloe Smith and Cedric Dauchot are two young brewmasters who plan to open the Shiny Penny brew pub in Saskatoon in the very near future. They share a passion for beer, but their education and approach to brewing are very different.
Chloe Smith grew up in Saskatoon and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Chemistry before heading to Europe. She knew she wanted a job that involved science, but she didn’t want to be a “lab rat,” and she wanted to be able to travel.
Chloe spent two years in Germany, France and Spain and caught the beer bug. “I lived in Edinburgh where they have great beer,” she says. “There are about five breweries in Edinburgh, and the odour overtakes the city.”
Chloe applied for a job at Great Western when she got home from Europe, but when that didn’t work out, she signed up for an online professional brewing course through the American Brewers’ Guild. A one-month apprenticeship at a San Francisco brew pub completed her education.
Chloe’s first job was with McAuslan Brewery in Montreal. “It was a good way to start out as I learned how important it is to be consistent,” Chloe says. But she was following a well-established, automated process which left no room for personal creativity, so after three years Chloe moved on and became the head brewer at one location of Les Trois Brasseurs brew pub chain.
Brew pubs are small-scale, artisanal breweries attached to a pub. Brew pubs serve their own beer; sometimes they offer guest beers. “You see the customers and get their reaction right away,” explains Chloe, “so you can troubleshoot much more easily.”
Les Trois Brasseurs is a small chain that opened its first brew pub in Place de la Gare a Lille in 1986. They have since expanded to 28 locations in France, with several restaurants in Quebec and Ontario. “They are really making an effort with their beer and only their beer is on tap,” says Chloe. “Their food is really good too,” adds Cedric. “They have a real chef.”
As head brewer for a branch of Les Trois Brasseurs, Chloe was in charge of everything from ordering grain and hops to unloading supplies, making beer, machinery maintenance, teaching staff how to pour, and talking to clients.
Chloe was Les Trois Brasseur’s first woman brewer, but Chloe doesn’t feel it really matters whether you are a man or a woman in this profession.
“Everybody has to prove themselves in this industry because it is really physical,” she says. “It’s not glorious. You’re mending broken pumps, fixing leaky valves and hoisting 25 kilogram bags of grain on your shoulder. It’s 95% janitorial – cleaning and scrubbing inside the tanks and the brew area. The only difficult thing about making beer is cleanliness. You have to be really diligent.”
Chloe says that many people try to make the jump from home brewing to professional brewing, but she believes that education is really important. “I know the purpose and the science behind the menial jobs,” she says.
Chloe met Cedric when she was working at Les Trois Brasseurs, so this is where we’ll switch to his story.