As Ontario prepares to step into the 21 century and end the monopoly on beer, so too is South River’s Highlander Brew Co. stepping into a new era as they prepare to build Almaguin and Muskoka’s first brewing technician school.
To deliver the new post-secondary classes, Highlander is collaborating with North Bay’s Canadore College to create an accredited, six-month certificate program that Brewmaster Brian Wilson says will produce job ready graduates.
“We’re going to take them through the basics and fundamentals of brewing and proper usage and handling of chemicals,” Wilson said. “As soon as they leave here they’ll be able to say ‘oh, I can complete that task, I have that skill.’”
While not a brewmaster’s program, the South River based school will include a classroom and a lab, which will is to be built inside Highlander’s new 10,000 sq. ft. brewery. Wilson has plans to bring in guest speakers, chemical companies and outside Brewmasters to speak to the students.
South River has secured funding to purchase the property for the new brewery, but Highlander Brew Co. is still a long way out from reaching the financial requirements for the project. In order to help find some additional revenue they have started an IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign. Highlander is looking to raise an additional $30,000 in funding that will go towards purchasing equipment and supplies. As of press time the campaign has raised $4,121.
The new brewery will be more than just a brewery and a school, Wilson says Highlander plans to create a community space that will cater to local artists and live performances.
“We’re building community,” Wilson said. “Not only do we have beer offerings, but we’ll have a community centre — an events room that will keep the community base.”
A number of years ago, South River was bypassed by the northern Ontario highway, and Wilson hopes by creating a destination brewery, Highlander can help bring some vitality that was lost back to the village.
“What we want to do is make [the brewery] a destination. We want to give people a reason to stop in South River,” Wilson said, adding that for Highlander, this is a way of giving back to the community.