Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)

Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)

Something’s brewing with North Island College’s newest program

Port Alberni grad Ellie Hadley hopes to turn new skills into thriving business

The first-ever graduates of NIC’s new Craft Brewing and Malting program are already high demand, finding work in the industry and making plans to start their own businesses.

Ellie Hadley is one of those students. She is using the program’s blend of business planning and applied experience to start Maehem Spirits distillery with her husband in Port Alberni. The two are already planning a potential brewery addition.

“The program takes you right into the industry and you can learn all about the equipment and operations of a brewery,” said Hadley. “You also learn about the business applications as well, including going through the licensing process.”

Fellow student Jon May has already been hired as assistant brewer at New Tradition Brewing in Comox after starting part time in the business’ tasting room. He said the program’s strong blend of theoretical and technical training helped him to immediately find his way around.

“The best part is I walked into a brewing setting and could hold a conversation with a professional brewer,” said May.

Program instructor Adam Chatburn — a British trained brewer and commerce graduate who previously taught at Simon Fraser University — says the program is designed to give the students skills in the full brewing experience, from start to finish.

“By the time our current students graduate in June, they will have the skills to start their own careers as brewers, production assistants, craft bartenders or even as business owners,” said Chatburn. “That’s great news for the brewing community.”

As part of their program, students had access to the brewing operations of Campbell River’s Merecroft Village Brew Pub & Restaurant, developing hands-on skills and building on foundational theory-based courses from the previous semester. Students also learned the fundamentals of labelling and packaging in kegs, cans and bottles. The beer students made is now available on draft at the brewpub.

According to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, fourth-quarter 2019-20 sales by micro-breweries alone topped $32 million.

North Island College is one of only two B.C. schools to offer a practical craft brewing program, said Chatburn. The aim is to establish a permanent brewing location for the program in the future, transforming the North Island region into a professional hub for the trade, he added.

Bob Haugen, NIC Continuing Education manager, sees a bright future in the program too.

“The fact that our students are already receiving job offers and making plans to work in the industry is enormously encouraging,” said Haugen. “We have an excellent instructor and a program that produces qualified grads.”

Applications are open now for the next intake of Craft Brewing & Malting, starting in September. To learn more or to apply, visit www.nic.bc.ca/craft-brewing.