Canada's first college brewmaster program launched

Olds College is launching the first-ever national post-secondary brewmaster program. The southern Alberta school has partnered with Niagara College in Ontario for the two-year degree that will train students to become expert beer makers.

Southern Alberta college to educate students on the science of beer making

Village Brewery brewmaster Larry Kerwin thinks a new national brewmaster program is much-needed in Canada. (CBC)

Olds College is launching Canada’s first ever national post-secondary brewmaster program. 

The southern Alberta school has partnered with  Niagara College in Ontario for the two-year degree that will train students to become expert beer makers.

The Niagara College Food and Wine Institute will share its expertise in the beverage arts with Olds College to create the brewmaster diploma.

The new program is long overdue, according to some in the industry. 

Lee Hanson, assistant general manager at J Webb Wine Merchant, says beer tastes are changing and more than ever, the beverage is big business.

"I think it’s fantastic to see a college like Olds taking that step. There’s a need for skilled brewmasters."

Experienced brewmasters needed

Calgary’s Village brewery is just several months old, but co-founder Jim Button went to great lengths to hire an experienced brewmaster when building his key staff. 

"I think the idea that people are able to get an education, a formal education in the process is actually quite brilliant."

Larry Kerwin is Village Brewery’s man. With more than 40 years in beverage-making, Kerwin recently retired — or meant to — after decades at Molson, and Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.

"It’s a real positive step for the Canadian industry. Especially now that number of craft breweries are increasing. There’s a real demand for trained brewers for the industry."

Lee Hanson from J Webb Wine Merchant says his customers frequently request craft beers. (CBC)

Brewing 101

The Olds College program will also create Canada’s first "teaching brewery" in Western Canada, because there’s more to making good beer than just adding hops to barley — brewing is a science.

"The brewmaster is the technical person responsible for making beer. You need a good understanding of biochemistry  and microbiology," says Kerwin.

Craft breweries becoming more popular

 As Jim Button’s industry grows he says it is shifting towards more variety, complexity of taste and smaller-batch craft brews.

That means having trained brewmasters is even more important, because customers want good, drinkable beer for their celebrations and events.

"You could say to someone, ‘Come help me move and I’ll buy you beer,' and they’ll go 'Great, I’ll help you move.’ If I said to you, ‘Come help me move, I’ll give you $8.75 plus deposit,' you probably wouldn’t come help me move," explains Button.

"But the fact you say 'beer' it’s all the other things, it’s sitting around having a chat, it’s being with friends, it’s being together."


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