It all started in 1913, about 50 miles north of Calgary, Alberta, just a year prior to when John I. Haas, Inc. opened for business in the U.S. The Olds School of Agriculture and Home Economics came into being as one of the first Canadian Ag colleges in the west. The school has a proud history, and they have long emphasized the benefit of a hands-on experience specializing, back in the early days, in field husbandry, farm mechanics and domestic science.
Now known as Olds College, it’s a relatively small institution of higher learning, but big in stature. According to the school’s website, the college graduates about 25 percent of English-speaking agricultural diploma recipients in all of Canada, and it’s striving to be the premier school specializing in agriculture, horticulture, land and environmental management.
Prior to the summer of 2014, I had never heard of Olds College. But during that summer, Haas received a request from Olds for a tour of our facility here in Yakima to see our processing operation and especially our new Haas research brewery. Obviously, they knew more about us, than we did about them.
But the request was for a mid-September visit! And on a Saturday, of all things! Wait a minute…who are these people? Don’t they know that’s harvest time?! Turns out, that was entirely the point. Their trip was to educate their brewing students about the world of hops with visits to a number of hops farms, harvest facilities and processing. That’s right, they were bringing brewing students. And not just a few—a bus load! OK, this was a bit unexpected but, sure, why not. We’d be happy to accommodate.
The visit ended up being anything but a burden for me and our brewer, Virgil McDonald. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable visits of the year as we hosted an amazing bunch of enthusiastic, knowledgeable and personable students and faculty—all obviously passionate about hops and brewing.
Olds College conducts a two-year diploma program for Brewmaster & Brewery Operations Management where they teach the art, science and business of brewing. In fact, they have a new 2,300 sq. ft. state-of-the-art teaching brewery with an adjacent retail outlet. The more I learned about the program and Olds College, the more I was impressed.
So when Haas received the request for a repeat tour of our facility this year, there was no hesitation. We looked forward to when the Olds faculty members and their new crop of brewing students would come and energize us with their enthusiasm. As expected, another terrific visit was held in 2015.
Olds College is welcome anytime, whether it’s September, Saturday or even at Midnight, I’ll be waiting. They’re a great group carrying on a fine tradition for their 100-year-old institution. And it sure is a nice coincidence that Haas and Olds are celebrating Century marks only one year apart.