Career & Job Postings

Everything Aspiring Brewers Need to Know About Working at a Craft Brewery

Are you an aspiring brewer? We spoke with some wonderful craft brewers and they shared some of their best tips and tricks for aspiring brewers.

Everything Aspiring Brewers Need to Know About Working at a Craft Brewery

If you were drawn to this article, we can only imagine that you’re a brewer, an aspiring brewer or someone interested in firing up a homebrewing operation! Either way, these tips and tricks should enlighten all levels of readers.

We spoke with a variety of brewers from different craft beer operations, hoping to get a peek into the world of brewing and provide a window into the industry for any hopeful brewers out there!

 

Brewers and Brewmasters Give Their Best Advice For People Who Want to Become a Brewer / Brewmaster

 

Doug Ajele-Campbell | Brewer at Wild Rose Brewery

Calgary, Alberta

craftbeer-wildrosebrewery-brewer-tips

 

Where did you get your start in brewing? What drew you to the profession in the first place?

I started working in beer during the summer of 2013 at Big Rock. I stayed there part-time while finishing school and once I graduated from university, a full-time position opened up, so I took it. I’ve since moved to Wild Rose, and have been there a little over a year now.

The industry behind different drinks has always been a passion of mine, so I kind of made this goal of working in each of the coffee, tea, beer and wine industries at least once in my life. I did the coffee thing for three years already, but I wasn’t expecting my part-time job in brewing to become a career – I just fell into it! It was surprising, and it’s crazy that more than six years have passed already. Maybe in another 15 years, I’ll move to B.C. and work at a vineyard before I retire in Japan picking tea.

 

What have you enjoyed the most about working in the craft beer industry?

The people that work in this industry are the best, everyone is always supportive and friendly. A couple brewers could just chill for hours talking about beer. which I think is one of the highlights – just sitting around a table at a bar or the lunch room at the brewery and talking beer. Everyone has an interest in you brewing the best beer you can, so it’s easy to ask other breweries for advice or ingredients when the need arises. It seems counter-intuitive, but it makes the whole industry better.

It’s also very rewarding to be making something that you can be proud of. Developing a recipe, and putting every effort into making it as great as possible, then seeing people enjoy it and come back for more is an amazing feeling!

 

What’s the best part of being a brewer?

You’d think it would be the beer right? But to be honest, it’s the people you work with. It’s the same in any job, if you don’t get along with the people you spend the day with, it’s going to suck no matter how much you enjoy the actual work! Luckily, being a brewer means the opportunity to work alongside some of the most fun people you can imagine. I think the industry just attracts great people who know how to get along and have an awesome time!

Also, the beer.

 

What advice would you give to up-and-comers who want to get into the brewing industry?

I think one of the most important things is to learn from someone. If you think of your favourite local brewery, chances are they spent a lot of time honing their craft and learning from other brewers who have been doing this for years, or they actually spent years working at other breweries gaining experience. It’s one thing to have a few homebrews under your belt, but it’s a whole other game when you have to do it on a large scale. It’s important to have that experience. So volunteer or pick up some part-time shifts at a tap room and dive into it! Watch the process and ask questions. It’s important to not only know how it’s done, but to understand why it’s done that way.

 

What’s one thing you wish you would have known before becoming a brewer?

One thing is that brewing is hot. Everything is hot, its standing over a giant vessel of boiling liquid all day, or using 80 degree water to wash a tank. You cannot be averse to working in heat and humidity!

Another thing to know if you want to be a brewer is you will get wet. Splashed, showered or straight up soaked with water, bone-chilling beer, or even yeast. It’s never pleasant, and just your luck, it will only happen first thing in the morning or last thing on Friday!

Also, if someone offers you a double dry-hopped cocoa Gose that you know you won’t like, its okay to decline. I’ve really come to respect brewers who know what they like and what they don’t. They tend to make the best beer anyway.

 

What’s your favourite beer that you’ve brewed since entering the industry? Why?

One beer I really liked and still miss is Abandoned Abbey from Big Rock. I think it was last brewed in 2015, but it was a great Belgian Dark Ale. I remember it took around 16 hours to do a single brew, so that’s probably why it didn’t stick around!

However, my favourite was probably a small 2-keg batch I made earlier this year. It was a saison with a particular type of spirulina that made it this deep blue colour. It looked alien but tasted great. We had it at the Wild Rose booth at Beerfest this year!

 

A Craft Beer Doug Loves: Wild Rose Brewery’s High Harvest yycbrewer-wildrosebrewery-IPA-

Wild Rose’s High Harvest is my personal favourite.

But if you’re in the mood for something different, Wild Rose also does small 1 or 2 keg batches for the taproom, and it’s usually it’s something one of us brewers wanted to try out so it’s often weird and unique beers. Ask for the Brewers Tap at the Wild Rose Brewery taproom!

6.5% ABV • IBU 50 • SRM 10

 

 

 

 

Rob Black | Brewmaster at Boulder Beer Company

Boulder, Colorado

Image source: Travel Boulder

 

Where did you get your start in brewing?

I was drawn to the brewing profession after getting into homebrewing with my uncle. I got my foot in the door with Coors, where I was hired in the distribution centre and thought that I could work my up. Boulder Beer Co. was truly where it started for me, where I was hired on the packaging side with the opportunity to move up. Boulder Beer Co. gave me the opportunity to put my passion to good use, and the ability to climb up to Brewmaster after just seven short years!

 

What’s the best part about being a brewer?

There are few things that are highlights about being a brewer. Being able to supply the demand by making what people want to drink is very rewarding, and being able to create on the pilot system allows me to try new things.

 

What advice would you give to up-and-comers who want to get into the brewing industry?

Two things. First, be open to getting your foot in the door at an entry-level position. Second, prove it’s your passion by being able to learn (on your own time) by taking classes and exploring with experimental home brewing. Not just homebrewing things that you yourself would drink either! Split batches to test yeast, hops, water composition, technique… anything to help you learn and understand brewing better.

 

Can you describe the hiring process for becoming a brewer?

It’s done by a panel most of the time, consisting of managers from different departments, with questions on the entire brewing process, describing why and how it’s your passion, and finally to see how you work in both a team and individual environment.

 

 

A Craft Beer Rob Loves: Boulder Beer Company’s Hazed Hoppy Session Ale hazedhoppysessionale-breweradvice-tips

Re-formulating Hazed and Infused was my favourite project to date. It was a beer that I only drank once in a while, and we turned into a Pale Ale (which is my go-to beer now). It is proof that you can always strive for perfection, even if you have a proven brew.

5% ABV • IBU 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derek Bray | Head Brewer at Blindman Brewing

Lacombe, Alberta

craftbeer-brewer-tips-ab-

 

Where did you get your start in brewing? What drew you to the profession in the first place?

My introduction to craft beer came when I was living in Victoria, going to
University. Hop Circle IPA from Phillip’s is the beer that turned me into a hop-head; from there it didn’t take long to reach full beer-geek. I think I fell in love with craft beer because it was so different from the typical light lagers that I had known. I realized that beer could be so much more!

I began working in the industry in 2014 as a cellarman at Brewsters Brewing
Company in Calgary. I spent two years working in the cellar and on the bottling line before I ever brewed a batch of beer. Then, in 2016, I was offered a position as a brewer at Last Best Brewing & Distilling in downtown Calgary. It was there that I really started to dig my teeth into the recipe development side. I started having fun playing with flavours and making some really crazy stuff, like a Pina Colada Milkshake IPA. I also honed my skills by making some clean, traditional beers, like a German Helles Lager.

Then, in 2018, I accepted the Head Brewer position at Blindman Brewing, where
I’ve had the opportunity to have some fun making sours and wild beers with a koelschip and a couple foeders at my disposal.

 

What have you enjoyed the most about working in the craft beer industry?

The beer of course! That seems like the obvious answer, but in truth, the thing I have come to love most about craft beer is the community. As the industry booms, there is an increasing sense that we are all in this together. Growth of the industry is good for all of us, and so we help each other out wherever we can. If you’re short on ingredients you know the brewery down the street will be happy to lend you what you need.

I personally have made great friends in this community, and it isn’t just limited to Alberta. Everywhere I travel I can stop in at a craft brewery, tell them I’m a brewer, have a lengthy conversation about brewing, and walk away with a new friend. I’ve had some remarkable conversations with brewers I’ve only just met. We all get along and we all have the same passion. You could even say we speak our own dialect, using words like Sparge, Lauter, and Wort, to name only a few.

As enjoyable as the brewing community is, it also serves a valuable purpose.
When I run into a new challenge in the brewery I know that at least one of my brewer friends has probably faced the same problem and found a solution.

 

What’s the best part of being a brewer?

The feeling that people appreciate what I’ve done. I think we all want to feel like the things we create are worthwhile. When people tell me that Blindman’s Five of Diamonds Pilsner is their favourite beer, and can say to myself “I made that,” it’s a really great feeling. Knowing that people really love the thing I create and are so passionate about it. That’s the best part.

 

What advice would you give to up-and-comers who want to get into the brewing industry?

Most breweries want some degree of experience before they will hire you. One of the best ways is to take a brewing course. Olds College in Olds, Alberta offers a two-year Brewery Operations Program, which is probably the best way to get a foot in the door in the brewing industry.

If you don’t want to spend money on tuition and two years in Olds, then there are other ways to get experience. This could mean home brewing, learning the basics of the craft on your own time. It could also mean learning to talk about beer, training your palate, showing that you are passionate about it and willing to work towards it. Some craft breweries will also bring in volunteers to help out on packaging lines, which may not be glamorous work, but it’ll get you in the door.

 

Can you describe the hiring process for becoming a brewer?

It can be tough to get an interview. It seems like everyone wants to be a brewer these days, so we’re constantly receiving resumes. The way to make yours stand out is to have some knowledge or experience, whether it’s homebrewing or basic knowledge about beer styles. If you have a science background be sure to showcase it. Microbiology is especially sought after in the brewing world!

The interview itself is very casual and usually takes place over a pint. The beer you order at the interview speaks volumes. We will probably discuss which beer styles you like and dislike. If you have the base knowledge that we’re looking for, then the next thing we’ll be looking for is whether you’ll fit the culture. We want to know that you’re willing to work hard, of course, but we also want to know whether you’ll be fun to work with – beer should always be fun.

Lastly, we want to know that you’re willing to work for it. You may not get on the brewhouse right away. I personally worked at a brewery for two years before I ever brewed a batch of beer. You will have to spend some time cleaning kegs, delivering kegs, cleaning tanks, driving a forklift or cleaning. A brewer’s worst enemy is bacteria, so expect to spend a lot of time cleaning.

 

What’s one thing you wish you would have known before becoming a brewer?

A few things. First, there is a lot of cleaning involved. 80% of the job is cleaning. Once you understand the science behind beer you realize how imperative sanitation is. A small number of bacteria can ruin a batch of beer!

Second, working in a brewery can be more dangerous than you may realize. We deal with industrial-strength cleaning chemicals that can do some serious damage if you don’t treat them with diligence and wear the appropriate PPE. We also deal with hot water and low-pressure boilers, which can lead to serious burns.

Lastly, summer is by far the busiest time for brewers. That means no time off
in June, July and August. In fact, expect to work a lot of overtime during those months. Brewers have to plan our vacations for the fall and winter, as those are the slowest months.

 

A Craft Beer Derek Loves: Blindman Brewing’s Five of Diamonds Pilsner fiveofdiamonds-pilsner-craftbeer

Named for the world-famous fishing lure made by the Thompson-Pallister Bait Company just down the street from Blindman, the Five of Diamonds Pilsner is the latest addition to our full-time lineup.

This one was a personal challenge for me. I knew all my brewer friends would be extremely critical of my pilsner, so my pride was on the line. It had to be good. I spent too many hours studying water. It’s an abhorrently dull subject, but water is extremely important in brewing. That is especially true in pilsners. Water is the star of the show in a pilsner. If you have bad water, you’ll have a bad pilsner. The studying paid off! The Five of Diamonds Pilsner has been well received by brewers, critics, and the general public alike.

4.8% ABV • IBU 25 • SRM 4

 

 

Now that you know all there is to becoming a brewer, check out these other articles about brewing!

How to Become a Brewmaster: 4 Canadian Beer Schools for Education and Brewing
What is Homebrewing?
How Much Money Can You Make Working in a Brewery?

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