KPU brewing student is the first recipient of the Nancy More Award

The award helps female or under-represented brewing students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University to fund their education.

Emily Comeau, first recipient of the Nancy More Award at the KPU Langley Campus. (Submitted/ Rebecca Deil)

Second-year KPU brewing student Emily Comeau has won the first annual Nancy More Award presented by the BC Hospitality Foundation and BC Craft Brewers Guild.

The $1,000 award is named after Nancy More, who became the first North American female brewmaster in 1985. More has been a KPU instructor for six years and helped create the Brewing and Brewery Operations program. She also has a long history of recognition for her achievements, including receiving the Legend Award at the BC Beer Awards.

“I made a joke to myself and said ‘I’m old enough that people can now name things after me,’ but for people to recognize what I have done is touching and gratifying,” says More.

The award was given to Comeau a couple of months ago, who says she was surprised when she was notified that she had won.

“Knowing it was coming from one of the instructors who taught me, [it] was quite an honour…a lot of power from this reward is what Nancy did. It’s important that we honour that,” says Comeau.

“This reward is a start to get more women in the program and industry.”

Before Comeau enrolled in the program, she was a student in general studies trying to figure out what she wanted to do.

“I couldn’t see myself doing a nine-to-five desk job. That didn’t sound fun to me. There’s a lot of creativity and science that goes into beer, and the creativity aspect of it really spoke to me. I thought ‘if I don’t try it now, I’ll regret it,’” says Comeau.

Comeau finishes her program at the end of the spring semester, and plans on working at her current job at Mariner Brewing full-time and continuing to learn new skills.

More says the award helps ease the financial costs of university, while recognizing and creating opportunities for others.

“We’re really lucky at [KPU] to have this award Emily will get…we’re trying to use these as ways to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come into the industry because we need more people,” she says.

It hasn’t been easy for More, who says that throughout her career, there haven’t been many women in the industry.

“When I started, I don’t think I really understood what I was coming up against. I was just persistent and stubborn enough that I wanted to show people I could do this,” says More.

In some of the places More has worked, there wasn’t a women’s washroom and she would have to leave her station to go find a washroom she could use. However, for Comeau, she has had a different experience at the Brewing and Brewery Operations program at KPU.

“The instructors are incredibly caring and invested in their students. The people you meet, not only the students but they bring in guest speakers — they have a lot of knowledge that helps you out,” she says.

In the Brewing Operations Program, there are four new first-year female students, an increase compared to some previous semesters. When Comeau was in her first year, she says she was the only female student.

“Maybe this award will inspire them to apply because it is an amazing program,” she says.

“We have more representation coming in, but we need more. I’d love to see more women coming into the industry.”