Olds college officially opens teaching brewery
Graham Cooke studied ocean sciences at the University of Victoria; Lisa Drapaka aspired to be a member of the Edmonton police service.
A common interest in beer attracted both to Olds College, where they are among 26 students in the college’s new brewmaster and brewery operations management program.
“The one thing that brought us all here was this passion for beer and brewing,” said Drapaka, who has blogged about beer and hopes to open her own brewery some day.
Cooke has the same goal, and sees the Olds College program as a stepping stone to a job in the industry and then his own brewery.
On Thursday, more than 200 people gathered at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites at Olds College to mark the official opening of the college’s teaching brewery. They were rewarded with samples of Hay City beer, one of four frothy products that will come out of the Olds College Brewery.
Among those in attendance was a delegation from Niagara College, which has Canada’s first teaching brewery and helped Olds College develop its own program.
“They are providing us with a full curriculum, they’re provided us with advice in terms of setting up our brewery, and they’re going to be advising us in terms of our business plan,” said Peter Johnston-Berresford, co-ordinator of the Olds College program.
Niagara College president Dan Patterson said graduates of his institution’s two-year program have enjoyed good success.
“The microbrewery industry is a very exciting place right now — a lot of growth, a lot of opportunities, and they need a highly skilled workforce.”
Olds College president Tom Thompson described his college’s relationship with Niagara College as a “pan-Canadian partnership.”
Johnston-Berresford said it will help establish country-wide standards for the brewing industry.
The Olds College program, which also runs for two years, covers such areas as food microbiology, brewing chemistry, large and small brewery applications, agronomy and business management. Hands-on production is also a significant component, said Johnston-Berresford.
Olds College Brewery beers will be available for purchase by the public, with a retail outlet set up adjacent to the brewery on the west end of Pomeroy Inn & Suites at Olds College.
“All four should be available within the next month or two,” said Johnston-Berresford.
“We’re not just going to sell them at the retail centre here at the brewery, or the student pub, they will be pushed out through Pomeroy; and any licensee that wants to get a handle on our product, we’re interested in dealing with them.”
He expects canned and bottled products to join draft sales in about three to six months.
The resulting revenue will be important in financing the operations of the Olds College Brewery, although Johnston-Berresford stressed that sales will be done responsibly and with no intent of undermining the markets of other breweries.
Kevin Sitch, grain department manager with Rahr Malting of Alix, said Rahr decided to become a major sponsor of the Olds College program for several reasons.
“We’d identified the craft brewing industry, about five to seven years ago, as one of the fastest-growing segments of the industry,” he said, adding that the Olds College facilities should be a useful training ground for Rahr’s own staff, and help educate farmers about the end uses of the barley they grow.
Johnston-Berresford said nearly 100 people applied for a place in the brewmaster and brewery operations management program this year. Those who got in come from across Canada, and range in age from 19 to 40. All have a promising future.
“The industry today is growing at a pace that exceeds 10 per cent per year,” said Johnston-Berresford.
Olds College is ideally located to support this growth, he said, with barley production throughout the region, major malting facilities at Alix and Calgary, and hops production in nearby states.
In addition to its four primary beers — Hay City, Aggie Ale, Old Skhool and Prairie Gold — the Olds College Brewery plans to produce limited release specialty beers throughout the year.
Its brewmaster is Duncan Britton.