Award-winning craft brewery keeps alumnus and co-op student hopping

Monday, December 10, 2018

Science alumn Steve Innocente and co-op student Tyler Ball discussing content on a clipboard in the brewery

When Waterloo Biology alumnus Steve Innocente (BSc ’96) parlayed his craft brewing hobby into an award-winning business, he also tapped into the opportunity to reconnect with Waterloo as a co-op employer, vendor and faculty member.

After graduating, Steve eventually wound up in Scotland, where he earned a PhD in Molecular Biology.

“I was going to be a professor and have my own lab,” he says.

While repeated attempts at this goal fell short, Steve’s homebrewing hobby was winning over pub patrons and winning awards. On a whim, he returned home and opened Innocente Brewing Company in Waterloo with his family.

Word spread, accolades came pouring in, and demand grew. Steve needed help. The tax benefits of hiring a co-op student provided a great incentive, so he drafted Tyler Ball, an Honors Arts student majoring in Legal Studies.

Steve quickly discovered that co-op students are a valuable and affordable source of highly motivated talent. In return, Tyler proved that the rapidly growing craft brewing industry presents a great opportunity for students to apply and hone skills cultivated in the classroom.

Steve’s surname lends itself nicely to catchy labels for his hand-crafted brews, such as Until Proven Guilty, Bystander and Conscience. But tantalizing titles aside, he knows it’s taste that really matters. Being able to count on Tyler to handle any task given meant Steve could focus on getting innovative with his brewing using ingredients such as hot peppers, chocolate, and wasabi.

Tyler organized special events, conducted brewery tours, and even helped with bottling and maintenance. He wore many hats, including inside sales, marketing, customer support, and production.

“My goal was to be called a great hire,” says Tyler.

An inquisitive, analytical mind. Strong communications skills. A passion for applying classroom learning in the real world. Co-op students such as Tyler bring these talents, and many more, to the table.

Hiring a co-op student allowed Steve to focus on what he does best. It also helped him to achieve his original career goal.

Not only can you find Steve’s award-winning beer at campus pubs, you can often find Steve on campus too.

“Life has come full circle,” he says of his position as an assistant professor with our Chemical and Electrical Engineering programs.