When wine cognoscenti hear certain credentials, they know someone’s serious about fermented grapes: a degree from a university’s viticulture and enology programs, or a Master Sommelier designation. But what about brewers? Many talented ones started out at home or learned while working at a commercial brewery. Where do they go to train with the cream of the hops? The Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago is the short answer. There may be other places and programs, but Siebel is the Harvard of brewing.
Düsseldorf, Germany native Dr. John E. Siebel started the Institute 140 years ago and brought his knowledge of chemistry and Prussian sensibilities to help America’s brewers. Initial offerings included a six-month brewers’ course, a post-graduate course and courses for would-be engineers, malters and bottlers. Today, Siebel Institute offers dozens of classes and a number of programs through an alliance with Doemens Academy in Munich under the World Brewing Academy (WBA) banner.
TheWineBuzz recently caught up with Siebel’s Director of Education, John Hannafan, to ask him what’s new and what’s hot at Siebel. Although Hannafan couldn’t discuss courses in development, he did note what’s hot.
TWB: What are some of Siebel’s most popular classroom or diploma programs?
JH: The World Brewing Academy (WBA) courses. By sheer numbers, the intermediate-level Concise Course in Brewing Technology is our most popular, followed by the Master Brewer, International Diploma in Brewing Technology and then the Advanced Brewing Theory program. The Master Brewer and International Diploma are both dual-continent programs, meaning some of the course work is done in Chicago and the remainder in Munich. These programs give students a New and Old World brewing knowledge and perspective. The Concise Course in Brewing Technology is attractive to those who may currently be working in the industry but feel they lack fundamental knowledge, or those with a few years of home brewing experience looking to transition to professional brewing. The Concise also prepares brewers for more advanced-level programs.
TWB: What are Siebel’s Sensory Kits about?
JH: These kits are designed so anyone can learn to identify beer-related flavor compounds – whether they be off-flavors, a particular beer flavor characteristic or someone just wants to recalibrate his or her beer sensory detection. The kits are simple and easy to use.
TWB: What have you learned from your students at Siebel?
JH: Probably how creative they are. Our students bring in some interesting home brews. You’d be surprised how some very non-beer-type ingredients can be manipulated to create very interesting and delicious beers. I’ve had a nice roasted garlic chocolate stout and a refreshing cucumber Pilsner. Respecting the need for balance and understanding your ingredients, as well as when to add them in the process, is key to a result that’s drinkable.
For life-long learners, Siebel also offers continuing education courses. It’s never too late to study up on your favorite beverages at the Harvard of brewing.