Four years later, AMS brewery still a long way from reality

When the creation of a student fee for a campus microbrewery was approved four years ago by an AMS referendum, advocates for the project imagined that microbrewery would produce beer that could be sold in places like the Gallery and the Pit.

Over four years later, it’s still unclear when, where and even if it’s guaranteed that the beer will be sold on campus.

According to former Brewery Committee Chair Max Holmes, who is the current VP Academic and University Affairs, the committee’s sole goal has been to work with the university to develop a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will outline both the brewery’s costs and the financial obligations of all parties involved.

Since the MoU negotiations have been the Brewery Committee’s main focus, Holmes was unable to confirm where the beer would be sold on campus. When asked if students could expect beer produced from the brewery to be sold at places like the Gallery, he did not make any guarantees.

“All that’s to be determined down the line,” he said.

“We need to really see what the capacity of the brewery is going to be, but of course the AMS would hope to sell alcohol developed in the brewery in hopefully the Gallery and other AMS outlets. If it is going to be a brewery on campus that students have paid for through a fee, it would make sense that some of it would be sold through a student society outlet.”

When asked if there was anything could derail that from happening, Holmes said that it was to be determined after the completion of the MoU.

“It’s a discussion that really needs to happen after we develop an MoU and further understand the academic use [of the brewery] and how much is going to be brewed out of this,” he said. “Right now, the focus is on getting an MoU.”

A fermentation lab?

In a previous interview this year, former Brewery Committee Chair Jakob Gattinger stated that the Brewery Committee was able to complete the academic component of the brewery through the creation of a minor program in fermentations, which was approved by the UBC Senate in March 2018.

However, Holmes said that more work needs to be done — though he provided few details.

“The academic component of the project is still currently under negotiation with what that will look like in the creation of the MoU,” he said

Within an academic context, the upcoming brewery is sometimes referred to as a “fermentation lab” by employees from both the AMS and the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS). Holmes said that although there is not an official name for the brewery yet, the use of the term fermentation lab is simply used to ground the project in academics.

“Often sometimes things that are used for academic use might have a change in name, that might be something along the lines of a fermentation lab,” he said. “But for all intents and purposes, it would still be a brewery in that it brewed alcohol.”

Gattinger reaffirmed this sentiment.

“We set out calling it a brewery and it will still function as a brewery,” he said. “I think the idea was saying it’s straight up a brewery when you’re submitting plans for academic programs and stuff like that [is] not reflective of exactly what the space is.”

Gattinger reaffirmed that discussions on where the beer could be sold would take place after the MoU is completed. However, he suggested that the brewery would likely be a small operation that would sell to AMS outlets.

“If it’s smaller, it’s not the worst thing in the world, because we’ll be selling to ourselves in the Gal and the Pit and so forth.”

Reaching an understanding

Holmes succeeded Gattinger’s position as chair of the brewery committee in June 2018, after Gattinger left the role to serve as a student representative on the Board of Governors. At the September 12 AMS Council meeting, Holmes formally stepped down from the role in order to put more focus on his position as VPAUA.

“I have enjoyed it immensely, but I think that with the return of the academic year, the time of the VP Academic and University Affairs is best spent advocating at the university as much as possible,” he said.

When asked about the MoU’s progress, Holmes — who was interviewed for this piece on the day he formally stepped down — said that it was “moving along” and that he hoped whoever succeeded him would be able to finish it.

“Whomever the next chair of the brewery committee is appointed tonight, they will continue the work of negotiating, ideally trying to wrap up those negotiations I would say soon,” he said.

In June 2018, Gattinger said that the committee had developed a “working draft” of the MoU. However, Holmes would not say if the current committee had a draft or not.

“The MoU at the moment is being developed, and the AMS and UBC are agreeing on what should be within that MoU,” he said.

The new chair of the Brewery Committee is AMS VP Administration Chris Hakim.