Niagara College’s trailblazing beer-making program ends the year with another set of medals

The Teaching Brewery continues to shine on the local, national, and international stage. Several of the school’s grads now head-up award-winning breweries across the province. Photo credit: Niagara College


In many fields of practice, greatness is not defined by or as a single, spectacular moment. Rather, greatness is defined by consistent, exceptional output over a long period of time. 

It’s in this second sense of the word that Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery is truly great. 

Since opening its doors in 2011, the Teaching Brewery, located out of the school’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, has raked in award after award, year after year. 

This past year was no different. 

Back in July, the Teaching Brewery was named grand champion at the 2023 U.S. Open College Beer Championship, where it saw all five of its entries take home hardware. 

And now, the school has two more medals to add to its collection. 

At last month’s Ontario Brewing Awards, the Teaching Brewery won a gold medal for its Beer 101 Bock (Amber Malty European Lager category) and a silver for its Beer 101 Strong Ale (Strong British Ale category).

The two award-winning brews are from the institute’s popular Beer 101 series and have won multiple national and international awards.

“When the same brews win when brewed by different people – that’s something that all our students and graduates can be proud of,” Brewmaster Professor Jon Downing said.

“The best thing about the Ontario Brewing Awards was seeing so many of our NC Brewmaster graduates on stage and accepting awards,” Downing added, noting that many award-winning breweries employ alumni from the college’s industry-leading brewing program. 

Aaron Spinney, who was among Niagara College’s historic first class of Brewmaster graduates in June 2012, is now at the helm of his own craft brewery: Merit Brewing Co. in downtown Hamilton. 

Merit won gold in the Specialty Beer category for Happy Place – one of the wine hybrids that are a focus at the brewery, which aims to blur the lines between beer and wine.

“It seems like a lifetime ago that I went to Niagara College, so much so that we have employed three graduated students ourselves here at Merit. I feel like the old cheerleader rooting for everyone else now,” said Spinney.

Brewmaster grad (2017) Christian Hand, Head Brewer at Orillia-based Couchiching Craft Brewing Co., was thrilled about his Black River Stout securing gold for the second year in a row, as well his Atherley Pale Ale winning a silver at the 2023 awards.

“Niagara College has been a very important part of my life and professional journey,” said Hand. “I credit much of my success to the education I received there.”

The 2023 Ontario Brewing Awards were held on December 5 at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on the Lake.

Both Beer 101 Bock and Beer 101 Strong Ale are available for purchase alongside student-crafted products from the college’s School of Wine Beer and Spirits at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and online at ncteachingwinery.ca  

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