All professions have their high points and their difficult jobs. Brewing has plenty of positive and enjoyable demands but also some wet and messy, heavy and difficult jobs too.
To brew beer well and enjoy the rewards you need more than a good nose for hop aroma or a steady hand behind the bar.
At a basic level, brewers need many of the skills of manual work. This is not just heavy lifting but managing physical control of a brew system, logistics of ingredients, the spent grain and product storage. Physical work needs sharp attention as to what is happening and in anticipating your next steps. Different things happen through the day and although some, like bottling, can be repetitive there are always people doing different activities so there’s no time to have your head in the clouds while everything swirls past.
Time management is essential. Brewing has strictly timed events, mashing and boiling are tightly controlled and affect beer’s character. Fermentation is more flexible but transferring beer from tank to tank requires a sharp eye on progress or you can end up with a room full of froth if the pump runs too fast and whips up a foam. Lunch breaks are unlikely to be regularly scheduled so you need to be flexible in your working practices.
Good observation matters. One mash may look like any other – until one day a bad batch of malt or a mistake in weighing out produces a darker wort than expected or an aroma not in keeping with the recipe. Noticing what valves are on or off and when target temperatures are reached can be critical to keep production on track and on time. Looking for signs of fermentation problems also requires aroma detection as well as visual clues. Experience helps but attention to detail can be critical to avoid a lost brew.
Today’s brewers are increasingly technical and require a good theoretical understanding, both of the brewing process and of quality assessment. This increasingly involves monitoring and measuring during production, often using laboratory apparatus. Training and qualifications are usually required to develop these skills. Other basic skills such as numeracy may need refreshing. Brewing does not involve complex calculations but recipes do have figures to manage if you are looking to achieve target specifications.
While the standard process can be routine problem solving is never far away. Sometimes because a different ingredient is used or because something goes wrong, often a mechanical breakdown. Because yeast is critical to brewing some microbiology is an essential ingredient to know and develop for the future as it is a growing technology.
While some brewers have gained success from a home brew background professional qualifications are becoming part of a brewery’s due diligence and of career development. Commercial customers are looking for reassurance that the beer they buy is produced by qualified staff who understand their product and who are up to date with legislation requirements.
As you progress your brewing career additional skills are required. Good communication is essential at all levels so that colleagues pass on the right information but head brewers often discuss their beers with customers, directly and in writing press releases or in interviews. Management is a further skill needed when you are in charge of a team and need to show leadership and support. All of these benefit from experience but keeping up to date with developments is essential.
If you have the motivation to brew commercially and can take on the requirements detailed above take a look at Brewlab’s range of training options to develop your knowledge and practical skills. We also provide you with commercial experience in working breweries with our placement partners. Our courses are progressive to give you opportunities for professional qualifications and are a great advantage in landing that job or starting your own enterprise. Check out our case studies for inspiration.Return to Brewlab blog