Whitby Fall Research showcases plans for craft brewing

From left to right: Chris Gillis, Mike Alyward, and Eric Ross Brew master at Brock St. Brewing Company
From left to right: Chris Gillis, Mike Aylward, and Brew master Eric Ross from Brock St. Brewing Company, stand by the newly purchased brewing equipment at Durham College’s Whitby campus. Photo by Taylor Waines

Imagine a job where you can do research and drink beer at the same time, Chris Gillis has that job.

A master at his craft, Gillis is the Manager of Applied Research Business Development at Durham College’s (DC) Whitby Campus.

Gillis shared his plans for a craft brewing institute at the Whitby Fall Research Showcase on November 23.

“So many of you are probably wondering OK, so how did this guy get tasting beer in his job description,” Gillis joked.

Two years prior to getting this title, however, a colleague suggested applying to a federal research grant in order to pursue craft brewing at Durham College.

The brewing industry

At the time, craft brewing was growing at 35 per cent per year and accounting for 30 per cent of the jobs in that sector. This makes craft beer the fastest growing segment in the LCBO’s beer category, according to Ontario Craft Brewers.

As the industry continues to grow, it opens many job opportunities for students, Gillis said.

The school received the grant and purchased brewing equipment for crafting beer and cider.

Creating the institute

Gillis has since spoken with the Siebel Institute of Technology and is brewing up a partnership to create an Ontario Beverage Institute at DC’s Whitby campus.

“We have about 25 million in private sector funding already going into this,” Gillis said. The institute will be a 60, 000 sq. ft., three-storey building which will include a full brewery in the bottom.

Gillis said they are currently talking to local breweries in the area to make a mutual agreement.

Hoping to have the pilot brew line in commission by early December, Gillis plans to work with local breweries to offer recipe development. Along with the breweries Gillis said they will work to integrate the agriculture business and the Centre for Food by using and processing local raw ingredients.

Hops, barley, yeast and other raw ingredients used for brewing.
Hops, barley, yeast and other raw ingredients used for brewing. Photo by Taylor Waines

“We see this as an area of growth to have different labs starting to do this sort of work for the industry so again there will also be jobs for our students in that area,” Gillis said.

Construction is projected to start by the fall of 2016 and Gillis hopes to open the doors by early 2017.

Once the brewing process has begun, Gillis wants to serve the brews at Bistro 67. So students can still get a taste of the campus-grown beer.

Unfortunately, Gillis said the title ‘head taster’ has been given to DC President Don Lovisa himself.

The craft brewing institute was just one of five on-going projects presented at the showcase. Other faculty spoke about the importance of ethno-cultural vegetables, cold-frame technology, pest management, and smart houses.

Leading in research

Durham College ranks 36th on the list of Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges in 2015, and has ranked in the top 50 for the past four years since introducing the Applied Research Department in 2009.

Lovisa said the event allows DC to connect with the community by collaborating to bring their visions together.

The goal is “to help us thrive as a college but also to help entrepreneurs and business people bring their ideas to life,” Lovisa said.