Sid Ruhland, Brew Chief
The Brew Chief
While I studied at the Okanagan School of Business in Kelowna, BC, it was the evening’s self-guided beer education that taught me how to brew. I was fresh out of high school, so my friends and I were not quite old enough to buy beer yet, forcing us to brew our own in my dorm room. My third year of college was spent abroad in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, from where I travelled many countries in search of the perfect pint, including a pilgrimage to the hallowed Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. The brewing continued after returning home for my fourth year, except that it moved from the college dorms to a cramped basement we called “The Stoutery” (hints at the beer style we brewed). The humility has remained since those modest first batches, but the thirst for quality has grown.
The idea to put a microbrewery in Oliver’s “Old Firehall” was born of father and son. We heard a local bootlegger was selling his brewing system, and soon enough we were busy piping it into the Old Firehall’s cavernous bunker with the help of friends & family. Since completion, I’ve been crafting unfiltered, unpasteurized, & uncompromised artisan ales, again with much help from friends and family (and a canoe paddle). We brew small batches, but we like it that way – it tastes better with more “love-per-litre.” And “rhythm conditioning” the beer with guitars helps too.
The Old Firehall
The Old Firehall was built for Oliver’s Volunteer Fire Department in 1948. The firefighers built themselves a new fire station, and the Old Firehall was purchased and renovated in 2003, becoming the Wine Country Welcome Centre and Toasted Oak Wine Bar & Grill.
Pappa’s Firehall Bistro now resides in the restaurant space, serving delicious house-made recipes, craft beer, and craft cocktails. Visit their website for upcoming special events.
Brewing a Brewery
Planning for the Firehall Brewery launch began in early 2011. After gaining approval from the relevant regulatory bodies, leasehold improvements and equipment installation began in mid-July 2011. Jim Ruhland (Dad) & I decided to build the brewery ourselves, instead of hiring an outfit that had built breweries before. This has allowed us to intimately know every detail of the brewing systems, although the construction process was elongated by this decision. Planning and execution was nearly non-stop for the following five months. For an inside look at the whole process, check out “Brewing a Brewery”. The finishing touches were complete at the end of January 2012, and brewing began in February 2012. The first batch was released at the end of March 2012, and now our ales are available in limited quantities at a few fine locations in our region (see “Where’s the Beer?”). Look for the red fire hydrant tap handle!