Going from homebrewer to professional brewer, on any scale, has challenges, risks, rewards and a whole host of considerations that should be made before taking “the leap”. Here are the top 5 considerations we’d like to offer for those considering a career in the brewing industry.
1. You will undoubtedly brew the same beer over and over
People love IPA’s. These hoppy ales claim almost 30% of the entire craft beer market share. That means almost 1 out of every 3 craft beers sold in the United States is an IPA. That’s the macro view. IPA’s will most likely also make up 25%-30% of your own beer production. That’s the micro view. When you find an IPA recipe that you really like, and people really like it, be prepared to brew that beer A LOT. Your IPA will keep your lights on if you let it.
2. Brewing is 80% cleaning and 20% paperwork
This is, of course, a bit tongue-in-cheek but in reality you should be prepared to clean and sanitize A LOT. Get familiar with different chemicals, the proper ratios, temperature, time and application method. Cleaning and sanitation will take up a huge majority of your time. If you’re the kind of person that finds cleaning to be therapeutic, you probably have a bright future in the brewing industry. Paperwork is also very time consuming because production and tax returns must be filed to local, state and federal agencies quarterly. Some states (like Virginia) require monthly reports. Every once in a while you get to actually brew beer!
3. You will (probably) drink less beer than when you were homebrewing
I used to love knocking back beers on the weekend while homebrewing. It was a hobby then, and therefore as casual of an experience as I wanted. You will still drink beer as a professional brewer, but when you do drink, it will be quite a different experience. The analytical side of you will come out. You will drink in one ounce samples. You’ll try to detect flaws and off flavors. You’ll test for carbonation and clarity. You’ll take samples to your co-workers to get their opinion, then run back to your laptop or journal to record your thoughts. All of this will happen before 9am. The rest of the day you will be working a job, handling chemicals, pressurizing tanks, lifting heavy items and trying to ensure product quality. It’s safe to say you will (and should) forego that pint until after work is over.
4. Other brewers are your allies and best resource for information
It does sound very anti-competitive, but other brewers will help you with tips, advice, hacks, permitting, etc. There is a growing sentiment that the “rising tide raises all ships”, which means that the success of one brewery can trickle over to residual business for other breweries.
5. You will have a lot of fun, if you let yourself
Carve some time out to get away from taxes, cleaning, bartending, brewing, cleaning and taxes (see what I did there?) and try to have some fun. This is a fun industry to be in. I like to tell people that we’re not making fax machines, we’re making beer. Beer brings people together for a good time and you should enjoy facilitating that good time. Believe it or not, people do like to see brewers and brewery owners knocking back a pint of their own beer and chit-chatting with the crowd. This builds a sense of community and connection to your local brewery. Just make sure that you’re off the clock and the heavy lifting is over for the day.