Hans Haas has had a love affair with science since he was a kid growing up in San Diego’s North County. His infatuation with the science of beer began years later in 2008 when his wife bought him a home brewing kit off the internet.
“We brewed the batch in the kitchen and were pleased with the results, but wanted to improve. Years later, we're operating a microbrewery,” said Haas, who opened Wavelength Brewing Co. in downtown Vista in 2014.
Wavelength Brewing’s main M.O. is to conduct science outreach through craft beer, and that includes free events that don't involve craft beer directly. The one-of-a-kind brewery has several monthly science-related events for the whole family, including talks from nature conservationists from Africa to engineers from NASA’s JPL.
The brewery also hosts star parties with its own telescopes, live stream rocket launches and landings, and even has a collection in the brewery of flown spacecraft items for people to check out, including SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Science communicators from all around the world (literally) come to Wavelength and present.
Wavelength’s combo of craft beer and science doesn’t seem out of this world, especially since science is a key component of making great beer, Haas said.
“But for us, the connection goes deeper than that,” he said. “Craft beer is a great way to bring people together for all kinds of reasons, and science communication is one of them. Sharing a good beer and conversation is a past time craft beer fans know and love, so it seems like a good fit for talking about science, engineering, and humanity's efforts to understand our universe. From what I've seen, it's a unique pairing in the industry, but I hope others will embrace it.”
One way to get the general public more engaged with science is through a science fair that Wavelength has been hosting since 2016. This year, Wavelength will host its fourth fair, called STEMivate, to celebrate the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in the local community, from employment in STEM positions to hands-on educational activities for kids.
Exhibitors range from universities and non-profits to businesses in STEM-related industries. Wavelength’s partner for the science fair is Vista-based Open Source Maker Labs. This year’s event, slated for September 29, 2019, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will include more offerings, thanks in part to a $10,000 Central Vista Business Improvement District (CVBID) grant by the City of Vista.
The grants, handed out this summer, are aimed at promoting Downtown Vista. “This year, we are happy to offer an afternoon of live science shows and talks on a stage with a large video wall,” Haas said. “The CVBID grant helped greatly with making this a reality, as well as helped increase our reach in advertising the event. We'll have live science shows from San Diego City College Chemistry Professor Shane Haggard and the ‘Don't Try This At Home’ team from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, as well as A Solar System Tour with Astrophysicist Dr. Lisa Will.”
STEMivate is one of the hundreds of community-wide science festivals that take place every year around the globe. Like art, music, and film festivals, they give communities a reason to celebrate. For the local economy, science festivals make a strong statement about a region's leading role in science and technology, which are the economic drivers of the 21st century.
In Vista, it also means spotlighting the City’s diverse mix of innovative companies. “We applaud Hans Haas and his Wavelength team for creating a fun and unique gathering place to engage people in science,” said Kevin Ham, the City’s Economic Development Director. “It really shows the diversity of our City and creates a positive economic and social impact on our community.”
Meanwhile, Wavelength, one of five craft breweries in Downtown Vista, attracts a wide range of customers (from near and far) for its popular Science Nights.
“We are fortunate to have a wide range of customers attend our science talks,” Haas said. “I always let our science communicators know before they go on stage that they can expect anyone from experts in their own field of science to random people who just happen to pop in for a beer with no idea what we are about. We have a loyal following for our Friday Night Science Talk series, but we also see a constant stream of people who are first-timers, sometimes traveling far to visit ‘the science brewery’ they heard about.”
As for Wavelenth’s locale, Haas said Downtown Vista has the perfect curb appeal. “We didn't want to end up being just another warehouse brewery buried in an industrial park, so finding a retail location was a must. Since we are a tasting room-centric brewery, a growing downtown was a good match for us in order to make sure we had access to foot traffic.”