After a lot of work, no sleep, aches, and hand wounds, I have become a full-time brewer. It wasn’t an easy road, but it has been fulfilling so far, and it is just beginning (to say I’m excited is an understatement).
That said, my transition from home brewing into professional brewing is a death knell for this blog (almost one-year later exactly). I have posted mostly home brewing related items, and will continue to brew on my own, but, really, my time will be taken up with professional brewing.
Like most obsessed home brewers, it didn’t take me long to realize that brewing was my passion and what I wanted to do for a living. Working in an office is simply not for me. I CAN’T do it. It kills the soul, and making your soul grow is THE most important aspect of life/living for me. I knew that I had to try and get into the brewing industry. If I failed to get a brewing job, I had a running career and MA to fall back/ continue on.
So how did I do it? I’ll post some things, as a final post, that I think are universal and important if you decide to follow a path like mine:
Before you get in:
Read, read, read again—Study brewing like you are in a graduate program. Read every brewing book you can, scour professional forums, and then apply that knowledge by actually brewing and trying things out. You need to fully understand the basics of brewing and understand most everything else, so that when you get into a brewery, you know what is going on. You will be expected to know how to do a lot out of the gate. And once you are hired, you will have a whole new set of variables to consider, particularly if you are passionate about consistently making better beer.
Position yourself for success—Cheesy sounding but true. You need to be in an area where you can actually get a brewing job. You need to be willing to move if you are not already in such an area. You can always move back (probably).
Email, call, hit the ground running—Canvas emails to breweries in your area that you are interested in. Go to those breweries and talk to people, get business cards and then follow up. Most places don’t need your help. You have to get your foot in the door somewhere though, and this is going to come down to pure luck most of the time. Some things that may get you a second look: enter brewing competitions and win them or get a formal brewing education if you feel you need to. Start building up your brewing resume.
Don’t settle—This, for me, was probably my biggest lesson. If you are offered a grunt position on a bottling line that may or may not lead into brewing, then don’t take it if you are unsure about it. If the people you work for don’t seem like a good fit, don’t take the job. I realized early on that the only way to get into the industry was on my own terms, which sounds contradictory, but if you don’t settle, you will find yourself in the best possible position for you. If you can’t find something worthwhile, then move along.
Once you’re in:
Be willing to work two jobs and have no free time—Often, the best way to start out is by volunteering, which is exactly what it sounds like: work without pay. You are going to have to get used to working another job to bring in money while you volunteer/make next to nothing. And, when volunteering, be ready to work whenever you are needed, every time, with little or no notice. This means giving up your weekends, plans with a significant other, regular band practice, and so on. 70-80 hour work weeks are your new normal.
Give up on sleeping well—To paint a picture, I worked a full time day job with an hour commute each way and then worked at the brewery some nights after the day job, so I would leave my house at 6am and get home at 11pm or midnight. That left maybe 5 hours of sleep (with no “unwind” time) before having to get up (at 5am) and go back to the day job. Mostly, I only got to sleep more than 4-5 hours on Saturday nights. Also, be prepared to NEVER be home.
Get used to aches—It’s common knowledge, I think, that brewing is hard work (a base bag of grain is 50lb, which you must repeatedly lift, shovel (post mashing), heave, repeat…you get the idea). You will be sore and tired and have cuts and bruises regularly. Some brew days also led into other work, which meant 14-15+ hour work days…all of that time on your feet. That said, after some time, this becomes less noticeable/you get more in shape to the things you have to do around the brewery.
Start a tighter budget—I also think it’s common knowledge that brewing doesn’t pay much. It can be a livable income, but not much more than that. If you start cutting back expenses as you go, you’ll get used to a tighter budget and it won’t be such a big change if you go full time.
Learn everything you can—Take in as much information as you can. Ask as many questions as possible, so even if you decide against going into brewing professionally, you end up with a lot of good tips for your home brew. Brewing is truly great because you can always learn something new.
That’s all I can think of for now. I will largely abandon this blog, so I hope you enjoy everything here and find something useful. Cheers.