Graduate of the year brews for top craft brewerys
After a successful hospitality career, Kat Howes is brewing a new future since graduating as TAFE Queensland's Brewing Student of the Year.
Her curiosity for brewing beer began when Covid forced her to leave her hospitality job, move from Melbourne to Queensland and pull pints with Newstead Brewery Co. while watching the in-house beer production.
"While bartending, I was drawn to the brew house. I've always loved drinking beer but had never seen it being made, and the whole process fascinated me," Kat says.
"So, I conned the head brewer into letting me work on the canning line, and I loved it. Over the next six months, I got more responsibilities in the brewery, and they eventually asked me to brew full-time."
One month into her new role, her manager asked if she'd like to enhance her skills by studying the Certificate III in Food Processing (FBP30121) with TAFE Queensland.
"Enrolling to study was a little daunting; I thought, 'do I want to be a 30-year-old studying?' but TAFE Queensland made it easy, and education is so important. To have an intensive six-month course in Brisbane that allows you to keep working is incredible," she said.
Taught under the expert guidance of teachers with decades of brewing experience in an industry-standard facility, Kat found the hands-on training was complemented by classroom theory, which gave her the skills to brew quality beer.
"We'd have Zoom lessons on Mondays, where we'd discuss the science of brewing. Then Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we'd put the theory into practice in the BrewLab was a great way to learn and retain the skills," explained Kat.
The two days Kat spent each week at the state-of-the-art Coopers Plains BrewLab, helped her learn all the practical aspects of brewing beer and how to operate the lab's industry-standard tanks, vessels, kettles, filters, kegging and canning line.
"The practical training with the BrewLab equipment perfectly complements the theory. You couldn't have one without the other," Kat explains.
From wort production, fermentation, filtration, packing, and sensory and quality testing, she learnt the skills she needed to write, develop and brew beer, culminating in her making her own Red IPA under the student beer label Froth Rookies.
"Brewing this beer was fun and working in the lab to create it was great. Red IPA is my favourite beer, and I created a punchy 7.8%. My teachers Kate and Hendo helped me write the recipe, which tasted much better than I thought it would."
Now a full-time brewer, Kat is responsible for brewing Newstead Brewing Co.'s range of beers and ensures each is true to the brand at 5,000 litres at a time - something she credits her TAFE Queensland qualification helping to prepare her for.
"Studying this course sped my development up and enhanced my skills tremendously. It would have taken years in a brewery to learn what I learnt at TAFE Queensland. The six months I spent studying accelerated my career, and I brought skills back to Newstead Brewing, and now I can run the operation," she says.
Kat's teachers were instrumental in building those skills, and she cites their expert guidance and accessibility in a supportive learning environment.
"Anytime I had any questions, I could ask in class, over Zoom or send my teachers an email and get a response the same day. They were so supportive and made understanding brewing principles easy. Learning from them was fantastic."
Kat's studies culminated in 2022 when she graduated as TAFE Queensland's Brewing Student of the Year. Now, her focus is on perfecting her craft, learning more about brewing and one day owning a brewery.
"There are so many opportunities in brewing and so much you can learn about crafting beer. I also love how collaborative the industry is – it's unlike anything I've experienced before."
"My overall goal is to own a brewery, brew amazing beer and work in the front of house too - because I love it," concluded Kat.