It’s been almost 12 years since Niagara College launched its trailblazing Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program, which made history as the first in Canada. The program responded to an identified need for education and higher quality product in Ontario’s brewing industry, and the impact it has had on the growing industry for more than the past decade has been unrivalled.
College Brewmaster Jon Downing has been a part of it from the very beginning. In recognition of his key role in developing the program, and its major impact on helping to grow the industry, he was presented with a Minister’s Award in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“Our brewing program at Niagara College has been instrumental in supporting the incredible growth of craft brewing in Ontario. Our Brewmaster Jon Downing has been at the lead of our NC Teaching Brewery since its inception over a decade ago and we are proud of his mentorship and support for the future brewers of Canada,” said Craig Youdale, Dean of NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute who nominated Downing for the award.
“Jon is not only supportive of our students, but also of the entire brewing community, by ensuring the growth and development of the industry that he loves. Our entire division is proud to have Jon on our team and we look forward to his direction to many more future brewers to come.”
Under Downing’s leadership, NC Brewmaster students have been gaining extensive hands-on training preparing them for employment in the expanding brewery, microbrewery and brewpub industries since 2010. The College’s Teaching Brewery has won numerous provincial, national and international awards for its student-crafted brews.
In 2012, NC’s first class of Brewmaster graduates set forth as pioneers in the province’s emerging craft beer scene – which has since grown from fewer than 100 breweries when the program was established, to 288 new start-ups (more than 320 breweries) by 2019.
“As we come up to the 10-year anniversary of the graduation of the first class of students, they and those that followed are the ones who have made the impact on the industry – some starting their own companies, and others working in breweries of all sizes, as brewers, head brewers and brewmasters of some of the top breweries in Ontario, leading the incredible growth we have seen in the last decade,” said Downing. “To have been a part of this all has been my pleasure, to be recognized for the part I played is awesome.”
Before Downing arrived at the College, he spent 20 years of his career opening more than 100 breweries around the world. It was his involvement with opening Ontario’s first brewpub in Welland, which led him to move to Canada from England in 1985.
Receiving a provincial award for his efforts was “totally unexpected” for Downing.
“I am honoured and deeply humbled that people think this much about what we have done to put me forward for the award, let alone to be chosen as the recipient,” he said.
For Downing, being selected for the award validates the faith that College leaders had in him when he first met with them almost 15 years ago about launching the program.
“Their support and that of many others at the College, and in industry, is what has led to our success,” he said.
Downing’s Award of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship was among seven presented to faculty and staff from postsecondary institutions across Ontario.
Minister’s Awards of Excellence
The Minister’s Awards of Excellence were introduced in 2020 to recognize the incredible work of Ontario’s faculty and staff during the early stages of the pandemic. The ministry decided to continue the tradition annually, and new categories were added this year to highlight more positive work being done at Ontario’s postsecondary institutions.
This year’s winners received a certificate signed by Minister Dunlop and were honoured at a congratulatory virtual meeting on the morning of January 21.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
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