New owners for Chilliwack's Old Yale Brewery

Brewmaster Larry Caza (left) and new operations manager Zach VanLeeuwen have big plans for Old Yale Brewery. - Paul J. Henderson
Brewmaster Larry Caza (left) and new operations manager Zach VanLeeuwen have big plans for Old Yale Brewery.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

If fans of Chilliwack’s Old Yale Brewery have concerns about the beer now that new ownership has taken over, worry not; one all-important fixture is staying in place: brewmaster Larry Caza.

“The product is awesome,” says newly appointed operations manager Zach VanLeeuwen. “It’s going to be just as good if not better.”

Caza is the award-winning brewmaster at Old Yale Brewery, which he founded back in 2000. He stopped brewing in October 2010, but a trio of local investors stepped up to revive Old Yale in late 2011. With full-time jobs of their own, however, the new owners made the decision this year to sell the brewery. Enter The 2Story Group, an ownership group made up of two local entrepreneurs that manage a number of successful businesses, the most well known of which is Petcurean pet foods.

The 2Story Group is also active in hospitality and commercial real estate.

VanLeeuwen is the ownership group’s man on the floor, managing day-to-day operations. He’s a graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) bachelor of business program. He has worked for the past five years in the tourism and hospitality industries, and he says big things are in the works for Old Yale.

“With a strong active ownership group and an award-winning brewmaster we know we can take the brewery to the next level,” he said.

Plans are in the works to rebrand, to expand the lineup with seasonal and limited-release brews, and, frankly, to sell more beer.

“The goal is to make as much beer as we can sell,” VanLeeuwen said. “We want to keep it a local operation, but the idea is to grow it to become a real legitimate brewery that makes money and employs people.”

Old Yale will stay in its out-of-the-way Venture Place location for at least a year—still filling growlers from its four taps for beer fans—but long-term, they want to find a more central location with more space.

VanLeeuwen said they have no plans to grow into a Molson, but expansion and increased marketing is in the works for sure.

With money to invest in new equipment, Caza is happy about the plans that will allow him to do more with more.

As the Times visited for an interview, Caza was coveting his most recent purchase of hard-to-find galaxy hops from Australia with which he is planning a “big” westcoast IPA.

Stay tuned, Chilliwack beer lovers; Old Yale is not only staying local; big things are brewing.

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