UBC looking to build first students’ union owned brewpub

By Arshy Mann
The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)

VANCOUVER (CUP) — The students’ society at the University of British Columbia is looking at the possibility of opening their own microbrewery.

If the plan is approved, UBC would be the only students’ society in the country to own and operate a microbrewery. Vice-president of finance Elin Tayyar says the brewpub would be focused on the UBC community.

“We’re looking at selling [beer] to clubs and campus groups. We would not be interested in selling to off-campus groups at all,” he said. “The whole point is to keep it local for our students and faculty.”

Tayyar says the society first became interested in the idea of a brewpub because of cost issues as well as sustainability ones.

File photo.

“Sustainability is a huge portion of this because you’re avoiding all the transportation. We’ll be looking to use [products] from the farm and give our by-products to the farm to use,” he said.

“The cost of making your beer is a lot less … there’s no price minimum that we have to sell it to ourselves at.”

The society has hired a consulting firm with experience in setting up microbreweries to look into the matter.

Tayyar says their first concern is the financial feasibility of building a microbrewery.

“We wouldn’t want to lose money on this project because there’s a lot of capital costs involved and we wouldn’t want to take that kind of a hit in uncertain times.

“We’d probably be looking at a 20 year pay-off of the initial investment. It depends on what the demand is going to be, what the market is going to look like, the pricing, et cetera.”

According to their consultants, the society would have to hire a full-time brewmaster and an assistant for the brewpub.

Last October, the University of Saskatchewan students’ union axed a similar plan to open their own microbrewery. A report commission by the union said the project was financially infeasible and would be stifled by restrictive liquor laws.

The microbrewery was a pet project of then-union president Warren Kirkland. He had proposed the pub as both a revenue opportunity for the union and a way to train chemistry and biology students to become future brewers.

In order to repay the full cost of the venture, the pub would have had to sell 20,000 litres of beer a year for the next 25 years, which the union determined was unlikely to happen.

The engineering students’ union at UBC is also considering installing a microbrewery in their new student centre.

“A microbrewery is currently being designed by a group of graduating chemical engineering students as part of their capstone design project course,” said former engineering union president Lin Watt.

However, she added, “The feasibility of implementing the microbrewery in the [student centre] has not been determined yet.”

Tayyar said the students’ society would be deciding whether to move forward with the microbrewery at the end of March.

“We’ll see what our consultants come up with. We’re doing a very thorough study and we’ll be relying on their results to make the decision,” he said.

From the Canadian University Press.