Kelly Olsen, Brewmaster

PWB’s Kelly Olsen … in for the long haul

Retire? “Probably never,” says PWB’s Brewmaster Kelly Olson.

More than 35 years ago Olson started his life-long brewing career sorting product in PWB’s warehouse. Today, as brewing manager, his days are consumed with the challenges of staying ahead of the brewing curve, knowing more than a month in advance what brands of beer will be needed in the marketplace. He says his job is all about “staying well informed … with a little crystal ball gazing thrown in for good measure.”

“It gets tricky because I’m brewing beer today that will be canned and sold six weeks from now. I have to make sure we are brewing product that will actually be needed. And, I have to ensure we have the raw product and maintenance material required to support that brewing schedule.”

Back in 1982, Olson was a 24-year-old laid-off equipment operator. His winter work at the Prince George Airport had dried up and he had a wife and young son to support. At a local dance, he ran into a pal who ran the brewery workers’ hiring hall and that’s when Olson’s luck changed overnight.

The next day he got the call. There was a job opening at the brewery and, he says, “I just never left.”

Olson quickly moved from the warehouse to the bottling line. There were no cans in those days and there was no automation. It was “hectic, labour-intensive work.”

“I took a job posting in the brewing house and quickly found that this job was completely different. I was more on my own and that was more fulfilling. You really have to use your smarts.”

Olson kept advancing and was eventually lead hand in the department. Then, in the early 1990s, Kazuko Komatsu purchased the brewery and Olson decided it was time to make the jump from union employee to management.

“More than 30 years ago I witnessed the installation of the original pasteurizer and can filler and today I am witnessing a state of the art upgrade of this same equipment.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Olson says he is proud to be part of a company that supports more than 50 well-paying local jobs. Besides the employees’ contributions to the local economy the brewery buys locally as much as it can … right down to the office supplies, he says.