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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two Cowboys: Olds College Brewery - Olds - Alberta

Every Town Needs One

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When we heard "beer school", we conjured up visions of heavenly aromas, rivers of golden beer, and perfectly valid excuses for consistent intoxication, thanks to an above the norm commitment to beverage quality control.

What we found at Olds College Brewery instead, is a serious business. 

The brewing industry in Alberta and Canada is growing rapidly. It took nearly a hundred years for the impact of prohibition and subsequent corporately sponsored government control of the beer and distilling industries to loosen its grip on enterprising brewers and distilling craft lovers. We are now finally seeing increasing numbers of craft breweries and distilleries, driven largely by strong consumer demand for a greater variety of great tasting, and local craft beers and spirits. Canada is slowly waking up to the realization that we can all have our own beer.

Alberta has the ingredients, the entrepreneurial spirit, and if you go back far enough, the foundational history in alcohol production. It is time we embrace our agricultural assets and our heritage.

Peter Johnston-Berresford is the leading Brewmaster at Olds College Brewery, and a pioneer of Alberta's very own Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Program. In his words: "Every community and town in our Province has the capacity to support its very own small community based brewery." Olds College is playing its part in ensuring this becomes a reality.

The College has a hundred plus year history in education that supports the agriculture and agriculture value-added sectors. The idea of starting up a teaching brewery was seen by their board as a perfect fit to some of the core agriculture production in the Province. They created a state of the art 2,000 square foot facility dedicated to teaching students the art and science behind brewing the best beer possible. 

Their first student intake was in the fall of 2013, and they began to produce their first commercial brews in January 2014. 

It is a two-year program that covers:
  • The fundamentals of beer making and brewery operation.
  • Evaluating the consistency and quality of beer while also determining beer styles and characteristics
  • Conducting analysis and performing advanced techniques in the beer-making process
  • Performing laboratory analysis of beer as required in a brewery.
  • Formulating and developing beer recipes for the marketplace.

As you can see, this is serious stuff. The magic of the Olds College program is that it is not all about beer. It is also about the business of beer. Students are inducted into the finer points of brewing commerce and production. This prepares them to be good brewers, good entrepreneurs, an asset to existing industry players and above all, good community members.


The proof is in the beverage! There is no room for hops-trigger-happy-hipsters in this operation. Everything we tasted was delicious, well balanced and full of character. The beer is simply outstanding.

Every Producer knows that you have to start with a good product to succeed in business. The Olds College Producer took on the added responsibility of not only having a good beer, and an outstandingly well qualified candidate for the industry, but it set itself the target of being self-sufficient. We applaud them for this free-market spirit!

The Brewery is a commercial operation. It may be dismissed by some sceptics to be a novel idea, until you realize that what they turn out is high quality stuff. It is well worth the trip to Olds to stock up on their beer. Who knows, it may even become serious competition for the bigger brands in due course.

As we've exclaimed at the end of the video. This is now also "our beer". 

Peter, Tony and David, are doing fine work. It is awesome to see the core values of production and commerce alive and well at an institution that are preparing future generations for their place in society. Not only do they teach the values. The institution lives by it.

We are proud to have the opportunity to tell their story. We hope to have many more excuses to continue to share their success and work beyond Olds, and beyond their beer. We are having a cold on on them!

Hendrik van Wyk
Olds Brewery Beer Fan

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