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Top flight: Aircraft Maintenance Engineer grad parlays technical training into taproom triumph

August 23, 2019

Brewing expert Matt Wolff knows a thing or two about flights.

In 2004, Wolff graduated from Red River College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) program. Now he’s the operations manager at Torque Brewing, responsible for the production of such beloved brews as What the Helles and The Witty Belgian.

Aircraft and craft beer might seem dissimilar, but Wolff says he’s able to apply his AME training to beer brewing.

“My role is operations manager so I’m in charge of all the production, a good portion of logistics, facility maintenance, equipment maintenance, everything,” says Wolff, 35, while prepping for Torque’s third anniversary party on Sat., Aug. 24.

“Every day there’s something that will just not work properly, where someone will have to find the source of the problem and repair it or you’re not going to meet your production quota. I have that ability to get in there and get my hands dirty, do the repair or find the solution to it.”

“Whether it’s an aircraft or a car or a brewery, the fundamentals are the same, from electrical to pneumatics to mechanical. If you have that understanding, you shouldn’t have a problem putting that into different locales.”

Wolff got into the beer-brewing business at age 18 through his brother’s future father-in-law, who had recently launched Two Rivers Brewing. In 2003, Two Rivers amalgamated with Fort Garry Brewing.

“I was young, I didn’t have anything lined up, and they said ‘You know we have a part-time position here. Are you interested in working at brewery?’” he says.

“The first question that came to mind was, ‘Is there free beer?’ And the answer was, ‘Yeah, you’re working at a brewery.’”

While still working at Fort Garry, Wolff attended the AME program at RRC’s Stevenson Campus. He said he was attracted to the program because he’s a lifelong “gearhead and tinkerer,” and because his father worked as an aircraft machinist at Air Canada.

“The campus and the facility are top-notch,” Wolff says. “I really enjoyed that they had a great selection of different aircraft to work on. Also, the coverage of all the different courses, it went from actual maintenance to things like composites, structural repair, electrical and avionics. It really encompassed a lot, literally from the nose to the tail of the aircraft.”

Matt Wolff, Torque BrewingAfter graduating from the AME program, Wolff worked at St. Andrews Airport for a few months, before quitting for personal reasons. He went back to Fort Garry, working his way up to the role of brewmaster.

In 2015, feeling like he’d accomplished everything he could at Fort Garry, he and a few friends started joking over a couple of cold ones about opening their own brewery. It didn’t take long for the joke to become serious.

In January 2016, Wolff resigned from Fort Garry. Seven months later, Torque Brewing opened its doors and turned on the taps at its spacious location on King Edward Street.

Wolff’s gamble is paying off. Last May, two of Torque’s beers won gold medals at the Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference in Toronto. The Witty Belgian won in the Belgian-style wheat beer category, while the Red Line IPA took top spot in the North American-style amber/red ale category.

A local success story, Torque finds itself in a position to give back. Every summer, Torque sells 12-packs of its Foundation pale ale, from which $4 gets donated to a specific charity. In the past, Torque has supported Habitat for Humanity and the Never Alone Foundation, and this year the brewery is hoping to donate $10,000 to Sunshine House, a community drop-in and resource centre.

“We’re always trying to be part of the community,” Wolff says. “With Habitat, as a brewery we went out and helped with the build. With Never Alone, they have a poker tournament at McPhillips Station Casino, so we were there last year pouring beer.

“We want to give back. There is a community supporting us, so we should do the same. It’s a two-way street.”

Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)