Otago Polytechnic appoints brewing rock stars

Otago Polytechnic has appointed two highly experienced and talented brewers to help drive its exciting new Central Otago beer brewing facility – Rough Rock Brewing Co.

Ben Middlemiss has taken up the role of Brewery Operations Manager, while Geoff Collie has been appointed Brewing Programmes Leader.

Born and raised in the South Island, Ben has more than 50 years' experience in brewing and won more than 60 national and International awards.

He has been instrumental in craft brewing in New Zealand and beyond, and is the founding brewer of the Cock and Bull chain of pubs as well as Steam Brewing Company.

“It’s a great time to be in the industry. The beer culture in New Zealand is vibrant and thriving. We are evolving into a culture that really embraces quality food and beverages.

“I’m thrilled to be able to share my skills and experience.”

As Brewing Programmes Leader, Geoff Collie also sees his new role as a “great opportunity” to pass on his knowledge to a new generation of brewers.

“I have been involved in brewing operations management for 27 years, and brewery design projects for the last six,” says Geoff, who graduated from university with a chemistry degree, before getting a job as a trainee brewer at Speight's Brewery.

“I left the brewing industry in 2000 and completed a pharmacy degree, then returned to brewing at Canterbury for eight years until the 2011 earthquakes closed the site,” Geoff explains.

“I then worked as Project Brewer for the Speight's Brewery rebuild in 2011, and then with Emerson's for their rebuild in 2014. I have worked on a couple of smaller breweries and a distillery since then.”

Beginning in February 2019, Otago Polytechnic’s brewing qualifications have been crafted to meet industry needs as well as offer a learning experience that fits with learners’ lifestyles.

Jo Brady, Otago Polytechnic Deputy Chief Executive, says the Bannockburn brewery is a “flipped” model – it’s a fully commercial brewery that will support our new suite of brewing programmes. This makes it distinctly different from a traditional approach, which would have brewing programmes supported with a training brewery.

The New Zealand Certificate in Brewing (Level 4), a full-time one-year programme, has been designed for those with a passion for brewing who want to get into the industry, or are seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Learners can build on those skills via the six-month Level 5 New Zealand Certificate in Brewing, and a one-year New Zealand Diploma in Brewing (Level 6), both of which will suit those already working in the industry.

The Level 5 and Level 6 programmes will initially be offered via Capable NZ, Otago Polytechnic’s centre for work-based learning. From 2020, the programmes will comprise a mix of on-site and distance learning.

“We are looking to strengthen our position in Central Otago, and to do this we need to find niche programmes that can attract students from across the country,” Phil Ker, Chief Executive, Otago Polytechnic, says.

 “We are positioning our Central Campus in part as a centre for food and beverage in the heart of New Zealand’s premier tourism region. This opens up opportunities for edu-tourism. We have several ideas in the pipeline, such as matching beer with food created from local produce.”

The purpose-built brewery is part of a $3 million redevelopment of Otago Polytechnic’s Central Otago Campus Bannockburn site, including a new trades block that will also house carpentry and automotive facilities.

An official opening and open day was held on December 1. Students will start using the new facilities in early 2019.

Read about our Brewing programme

Caption: Ben Middlemiss (left), Brewery Operations Manager; Jo Brady, Otago Polytechnic Deputy Chief Executive and project sponsor; and Andrew Larson, brewing consultant and member of Otago Polytechnic's brewing steering group, celebrate the official opening of Rough Rock Brewing Co. recently.