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My Experiences

Siebel, Chicago, Food, and Beer.
Posted Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by pwoods

As some on these boards know, I attended the Concise Course in Brewing Technology at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago this past fall.  A few weeks after returning home to Cincinnati, Dave(Ender) mentioned that there are others on the board considering Brewing as a career and asked if I'd write a blog about my experiences for their benefit.  Enrolling, planning, room and board, class, Chicago, and lots of Beer.  I guess Dave didn't realize that I'm half retarded, fully lazy, and therefore am the last person to ask to write a blog for people looking for guidance on how to take the first step.  Welp, it's probably 2 months later now and here it goes.

 

Which way should you go?

First, ask yourself if you could work long hours of physical labor in the hot/cold/wet for little money and possibly no benefits.  And if you're willing to relocate, because that's a huge possibility if your town isn't flush with established breweries.  Brewing is one of the few things that has really spoken to me and truely makes sense, so I'm willing to stick with it through the hard beginnings, and so on, because I know this is what I really want to do.  It only took me 30 years to figure that out. :P

If you're still looking at becoming a professional Brewer, there are many ways to go about it.  Starting your own brewery, networking(ass kissing), volunteering, luck, education.  I don't know which is best because I'm not getting paid yet, lol, but here is how I'm going about it.  I don't kiss ass and starting a brewery without real experience is more than I can confidently handle(Millennials, I know).  So I'm banking on the last 3.  

At first, I started by sending my resume to breweries posting on probrewer.com, stating that I plan to attend Siebel.  Vinnie Cilurzo was the only person that even replied to me, lol.  So just luck was out.  Instead of randomly emailing breweries asking to volunteer, I decided to show that I was serious by applying to Siebel first.  This proved successful as the first brewery I emailed replied almost immediately after I explained that I was enrolled for the fall(and that I wanted to clean tanks and scrub the floor, blah blah).  I later found out that he had recieved over 40 other emails from volunteers, mostly novice home brewers that thought the idea of working in a brewery would be awesome(dude!), and that he let me volunteer because paying thousands of dollars for a certificate that's only good for brewing showed that I was serious about this career path.

I volunteered 1-2 times a week for a couple few months before class started.  This can be invalueable for your resume.  Another Cincinnati guy that was in my class got a job at Rivertown his first Monday back from class because he had been volunteering there.  That's where some luck comes in.

Ass kissing is a great way as well.  What I mean is basically make yourself visible to all the breweries/brewers in your area.  Hang out and kiss their ass at the taproom/brewpub/etc and attend as many of their events as you can.  Stay visible with them on twitter and facebook.  This can help out immensely.  It's almost a little sad how effective this can be.  This was also a huge disadvantage for me, not just because I don't kiss ass, but because I work the evening shift and can't make it to many events or the brewpub/taproom during the week.

So.... on to school.

 

Enrolling

For the Concise Course, it's very simple.  Find the course on the Siebel website(http://www.siebelinstitute.com/courses-a-programs/courses-in-english/programs-courses-by-date) and click on the Requirements tab.  It'll talk about how it's an intermiate course, etc. and to email them for an 'assessment review'.  For this course it's pretty much a formality.  The experience level of my classmates ranged from a guy on his 3rd extract batch(though he said he read books for 6 months before ever brewing), to pro brewers with 3+ years experience that wanted to further their career, to packaging managers at MillerCoors with no brewing experience at all.  I personally wouldn't have wanted to take the course without experience or at least a lot of prior reading.  

Anyway, you'll be asked about brewing experience, any background in chem/biochem/microbio, books/articles/mags/etc. about brewing that you've read, and what your goals are.  I had 4-5 years homebrewing exp, no science background(lol), I've read quite a bit, and my goal was to use my certificate to get my foot in the door as a brewer.  Then you'll get permission to fill out the registration forms.  If you pay in full early you save a couple hundred bucks.

 

Lodging

Unless you have relatives/friends within a quick and easy commute, then stay at the Chicago Getaway Hostel.  It's consistantly rated as one of the worlds best hostels, it's cheap, you get Siebel and extended stay discounted rates, it's very clean and has its own kitchen that you can use to store and cook food.  It's also in Lincoln Park so it's close to Siebel(30min walk, 15min brown line.  Red&purple at the same stop but they don't stop at Clybourn) and Local Option, there are tons of places to eat, a grocery very close, and tons of hot college chicks to creep out.  I got a private room for 13 days for $515 after taxes.  You're not touching that anywhere else.  They also have lots of free or discounted events(free dinners, pub crawls, etc.) and a coin op laundry.  Seriously, stay here.

 

Class

Class was a bit rough for me.  I've been out of school for 10+ years and never tried when I was there to begin with.  And I'm not used to sitting still indoors for 8 hours a day.  It should go without saying but make sure you get plenty of sleep and don't get drunk every night, lol.  Staying caffienated is a must.  You'll get a 10 minute break at the end of every hour, so that helps out quite a bit.  

The material itself is pretty easy, depending on how much you already know.  The Concise Course is basically the 'less in depth' version of the diploma course.  Most sections only took up an hour but the ones that dug deeper into the science behind brewing would take 2-3 hours, whereas these sections in the diploma course would be 3-4 times longer.  

I highly recommend that you take notes(I printed the binders out ahead of time and highlighted and added notes as needed) and buy 200-300 flashcards.  Each section has 5-15 sample questions that you should definitely write down and then answer on the back.  If you're quick, you can do this during break or during lunch as this will save literally hours after class.  Go through each days flashcards 2-3 times that night and once over everything.  Once I had over 200 flashcards, I started to toss the ones that I could answer immediately or the ones that I thought would obviously not be on the test.  Dont' put off studying.  I half assed it after the first couple days and started freaking out at the end of the first weekend because just writing out the flashcards was taking for fucking ever and I wasn't getting much studying done at all... it made most of the second week miserable.  If you study, you seriously won't fail.  If you fail, you probably shouldn't be in a brewery.  The test was easy because I studied my dick off.  If you get your flashcards done during break and lunch, you'll have plenty of time to go out for dinner and beer and be back in time for an hour or so of studying.  If you put it off you'll be going straight back to the hostel to try and catch up all night.

 

The Fun Stuff.

If you're planning on doing a lot of sight seeing(ie stuffing your face and drinking beer), then I highly recommned getting a CTA Unlimited pass(http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/unlimitedridecards.aspx).  I got 2 weekly passes for the CTA(El Trains) and Pace(buses) for $28 a week with unlimited use.  Download one of the CTA Transit apps and you'll have absolutely no trouble getting anywhere you need to go.  Take the Megabus to Chicago and you won't have to pay for parking, either :)  Don't go overboard during the week... you have studying to do.

Stuff by Siebel:  Sometime during your first day of class you'll be given a student discount card.  We got 20% off at GI Clybourn and 10% off at Franks N Dawgs, Amato's, and Haymarket with the first 3 being easy walking distance from Siebel.  Clybourn and Franks N Dawgs are great and quick places for lunch, though a bit pricey for everyday even with the discount(I didn't go to Amato's though they said it was cheapish NY style pizza).  You definitely have to hit Franks N Dawgs at least once(http://www.franksndawgs.com/menu).  The Cuban, Pork Belly Sangwich, and Stilton Burger at Goose are all fantastic as well.  Don't drink too much at Goose because you'll still have another 4 hours of class left.  Also, Siebel has a Beer Stube in the classroom.  You can pack a lunch and use their fridge if you'd like.  After class they encourage everyeone to hang out and drink the free draft(Daisy Cutter, SNPA, and Boston Lager when I was there) and bullshit/network until around 6.  You can also bring bottles of homebrew or beer from your brewery to share.   After some beers we started a facebook group and have kept in touch and continued to network a bit.  Also a great way to get a free pregame session in ^^b  The Vice President is a cool as mother fucker and even cooler after he has a couple beers in him.

Stuff by the hostel:  Being near Depaul's campus, there are quite a few places that will deliver.  I ended up getting Pad Thai at theThai Bowl(http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurants/thai-bowl-2/menu) when I was staying in to study.  Lots and lots of sushi places in Lincoln park.  I heard good things about Toro Sushi(http://www.torosushi.biz/Menu/index.htm) but they were slammed when I walked by.  Ended up going down the street to Sushi Mon(http://www.sushimonchicago.com/) which was pretty good but not great.  Price was pretty good for what you got.  Lincoln Park Grocery(think that was the name) is right around the corner from the hostel as well.  As mentioned before, Local Option(http://localoptionbier.com/) isn't far away at all and well worth the walk and have very reasonably priced bottles of Cantillon/3F often.  Their taps can be pretty fucking pricey and I had pretty rude service once, but nothing to shy away from.  Pequod's(http://www.pequodspizza.com/) will deliver to the hostel and you can't say you were in Chicago without having some of this pie.  A small pie with 2-3 toppings, delivery charge and tip will run about $20 but you can easily get 2 meals out of it.  Unless you're a cow and then you'll get a Thanksgiving sized meal and a big snack the next day :bag:

Stuff downtown:  Going away from the food and beer for a quick second.  The Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium are must stops.  I hit Field on Sunday and Shedd the day after classes were finished.  I liked Field a bit better because it was less crowded(Shedd had nearly an hour wait outside in the cold) and aquarium are a bit meh for me.... Shedd still impressed, though.  I spent 4+ hours in Field, only saw MAYBE 20% of the place, and actually got lost for 15 minutes when I was trying to leave, lol.  Back to food :D  Lots of places downtown but I only got to go to The Billy Goat Tavern(http://www.billygoattavern.com/) and Downtown Dogs(http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurants/downtown-dogs/menu).  DD was just ok but I like Billy Goat.  It's not a must see place, but fun for a quick greasy burger, cheap draft, and history/nostalgia.  There's an Intelligentsia(http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/) cafe right next to Millenium Park.  Buckingham Fountain was off because of the cold :(

Stuff in Bucktown:  This is a great neighborhood.  Arturo's Tacos(http://www.arturos-tacos.com/) is 5-7 blocks from The Maproom(http://maproom.com/).  Tacos are fantastic, cheap as shit, and will still be piping hot by the time you get to The Maproom.  There's also an incredibly hot hooker at the bus stop next to The Maproom.  Jay's Beef(http://www.jaysbeef.com/) was amazing as well... I'm in love with the hot giardiniera.  Piece(http://www.piecechicago.com/) is stupid fucking good and their beer is, too.  I passed Lillie's Q while walking to Jay's and everyone has said they're well worth a stop... I'll have to find out next time.  I think Revolution was right around here, too, but I was drunk, lol.  Very cool place, hot waitresses, get the Giardiniera Pizza.

Stuff elsewhere:  There are a million and one places to eat and drink but only so much time.  I'm sure I'm forgetting a place or two but a couple that I liked a lot were Hopleaf(http://hopleaf.com/) and Chuck's Cafe(http://www.chuckscafe.com/).  Hopleaf is kinda far north but there are lots of places to eat and cool little shops all around.  They seriously bring it on the taps(lots of Belgians and tons of variety as well) and have a pretty crazy bottle list.  They're pricey and I've heard kinda douchey, but a great stop if you have the time to kill.  They have a small but interesting menu.  I was recommended the Tilapia sandwich, which was very good and came with a big ass plate of frites for $11.  Chuck's Cafe is damn far south but I had one of the best dishes of my trip there, Fisherman Bouillabaisse.  Multiple kinds of fish and shellfish, andouille, corn, potatos, and all the crusty french bread you'll need to sop up the fantastic broth.  I got a boner and paco was there to witness it.  Fucking thing was like $14 and full pints of Panzer Arctic Wolf washed it down nicely.  I guess they're known for their BBQ but I'll stick with the soup 8=====D.

 

Welp, this was a hell of a lot longer than I meant it to be and I'm rambling.  I hope this is helpful to anyone looking into Siebel or could use some food and beer ideas, lol.  Feel free to ask me any questions.

And a quick shout out to Dave.  My birthday was the first Thursday I was there and he invited me into the brewery, pulled Cherry Rye BCS and Tortuga Coffee BCS from the brites for, showed me around the brewery and 4 barrel warehouse, pulled a couple samples from the barrels, took me out to get drunk around town(that German place was cool as shit), and was very gentle at the end of the night.  And payed for everything, too!  Thanks a bunch, Dave!  I'll make sure I bring ya something special next time I'm in town.  And I guess I still owe ya for that bottle of Cantillon :unsure:

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