After thirty years in the beer industry I am often asked about how to take the next steps towards becoming a professional brewer. The industry continues to change and has become more competitive as the market has grown. Here are some thoughts...
Becoming a professional brewer requires a combination of education, experience, and passion for brewing. Here is a suggested plan to help you pursue a career as a professional brewer:
1. Educate Yourself:
Research the brewing industry: Familiarize yourself with different beer styles, brewing techniques, and the business side of brewing. Attend beer festivals, visit breweries, and network with industry professionals.
Read books and take online courses: Study the fundamentals of brewing, including ingredients, equipment, brewing processes, and quality control. There are several reputable online courses and books available that can provide valuable knowledge.
Consider formal education: Look into brewing programs offered by universities, colleges, or brewing schools. These programs often provide hands-on training, covering both theoretical and practical aspects of brewing.
2. Gain Homebrewing Experience:
Start homebrewing: Begin brewing your own beer at home. Experiment with different recipes, ingredients, and techniques. This will help you understand the brewing process and develop your palate for different beer styles.
Join a homebrewing club: Connect with other homebrewers and participate in club activities. This will allow you to learn from experienced brewers, receive feedback on your beers, and exchange brewing knowledge.
3. Seek Professional Experience:
Work or volunteer at a brewery: Look for opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a commercial brewery. Even entry-level positions such as cellar work, packaging, or taproom operations can provide valuable insights into the brewing industry.
Pursue an internship or apprenticeship: Some breweries offer internship or apprenticeship programs to aspiring brewers. These programs can provide intensive training and mentorship under experienced brewers.
4. Expand Your Knowledge and Skills:
Attend brewing workshops and seminars: Participate in industry events and workshops to stay updated on the latest brewing trends, techniques, and technologies. These events also provide opportunities to network with industry professionals.
Consider specialized courses: If you want to focus on specific areas of brewing, such as yeast management, recipe development, or sensory analysis, consider taking specialized courses offered by brewing schools or organizations.
5. Obtain Certifications:
Cicerone Certification: Consider pursuing Cicerone certifications, which are highly regarded in the beer industry. The certifications range from Certified Beer Server to Master Cicerone and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in beer styles, flavors, and service.
Other certifications: Look into other relevant certifications, such as the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) qualifications or the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). These certifications can further enhance your credentials and demonstrate your commitment to professional brewing.
6. Build Your Network:
Attend industry events: Participate in beer festivals, conferences, and local brewery events. Engage with fellow brewers, suppliers, and enthusiasts to expand your professional network.
Join professional organizations: Become a member of brewing associations or guilds to connect with industry professionals, access resources, and stay updated on industry news and trends.
7. Gain Professional Brewing Experience:
Look for brewing job opportunities: Apply for brewing positions at breweries, brewpubs, or contract brewing facilities. Start with entry-level roles and work your way up to gain experience in various aspects of the brewing process.
Consider starting your own brewery: If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you can explore the option of opening your own brewery. This requires careful planning, market research, and securing financing, but it can provide you with the opportunity to brew your own beers and build your brand.
Remember that the brewing industry is highly competitive, so dedication, continuous learning, and a passion for brewing are essential. Be prepared to start at the entry level and work your way up, gaining experience and refining your skills along the way.
Want to learn More! about opening a brewery? Check out our video, The Process of Opening a Brewery with Side Gate Brewery below.
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