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.


Small Updates

This update is a long time coming, but, alas, it will be a short one.

What have I been up to? Brewing a lot, on a 7bbl system and barely homebrewing at all. In fact, the home brew I have made lately has been test batching for the 7bbl system. But recently, I have found new motivation and lined up three new brews:

  • English Southern Brown
  • German Alt
  • Weizenbock

I haven’t brewed any of these styles, and they each have their own challenges that I look forward to dealing with. I have refined a few other recipes but still have not nailed down a stout recipe like I want, so there is progress to be made there as well.

All of that said, I am working, a lot. Between work and commuting I have time or energy for little else (though I have been getting in some hiking and did my first 14er). But it is all to a very, very good end, which I will post more about soon (and likely to be the last post for this blog).

Until then…

I have brewed an imperial stout, which I am modeling to be an imperial version of the poblano stout. The brew day went well enough. Here are some pictures:

Mashing In

O.G. 1.100, It’s a Big One

I’m using Whitbread yeast, and upon initial tasting, the beer has some odd tart flavor. It fermented in the cool range, around 65, so I’m just going to let it sit for a while and see what develops.

I also brewed an IPA/Wheat IPA. My initial plan was to use Simcoe and Nelson hops, as I thought those flavors would go well together or, at least, be interesting, but I could not find Nelson hops anywhere…so I subbed Centennial in place of the Nelson, as I had a few ounces in the freezer.

I used almost all late (in the last 10 minutes of boil) hop additions on this one.

Whole hops go inside the bag lest ye desire a clogged siphon.

So aside from those two beers, I recently one two medals, both for my porter. The first took gold in the Ska Pro Am, check it here: http://www.durangohomebrew.com/2012_Awards.html

And the second was a silver in the BEER Brew Off. Check it here: http://beerhbc.org/

I plan to bottle (c&c) the barleywine, Rosewater, soon. It is carbing up as I type.

Alright, so since the last post, surprise, I’ve kept brewing. I brewed Awerye, which I will keg soon, and I have a barleywine fermenting right now. I haven’t brewed a barleywine in over a year…hopefully it turns out well.

Here are a few shots (hey pictures again!) of the brew day:

Transferring into fermentor

The carboy sits in that cooler with the insulated lid and blow-off tube. I fill the cooler up with water and rotate bottles of ice to keep the temp where I need it.

Also, I packed up beer for two competitions, see the competitions link (I’m just including this because I forgot to take more pictures of the brew day).

Outside of the two new brews, last night I went to the soft opening of Big Choice and got to taste the beers I helped brew, which was awesome! Plus the beer is fantastic. I’ll be at the actual opening this weekend and will also be helping brew more. I look forward to more of this:

But, if I don’t quite post as much here, it’s because the weather is getting far too nice to sit indoors when I could be hiking and looking at this landscape:

I won a bronze medal for a Belgian Strong Dark in this year’s Peak to Peak homebrew comp in Longmont, CO. This was my first CO comp, and I placed, so I am quite happy about that.

That said, the first two batches of homebrew here have turned out just OK. I think I have figured out the problem but will post more if something interesting develops.

Also, I’ve been slacking here as I am in the process of replacing a camera, and nobody likes posts without pictures.

General updates: I’ve brewed an imperial red ale and a porter; I may post the recipe along with pictures when possible. I also got to hang out at Big Choice Brewing again today, ask a bunch of annoying questions, and get really in-depth answers. The brewery just has a fantastic feel to it. I hope to contribute more soon.

I dry hopped Goodman Brown last night. I will be kegging it and getting it carbed up for a competition soon. It looks like this:

Also, after frustration (lack of control) with bottle conditioning and with no other fantastic alternative, I caved and bought a Blichmann Beer Gun. I hooked the thing up yesterday and bottled some Saison I still have kicking around in a keg. The Beer Gun is pretty killer. It makes bottling from a keg relatively easy, clean, and gives the comfort that my beer won’t be oxidized. So, no more bottle conditioning outside of Belgian beers.

Here is the broken down beer gun:

Finally, this morning, I found a place that could serve as a central storage spot for my “cellar” beers and moved everything over.

I talked with Nathaniel of Big Choice Brewing earlier in the week. We got to chat for a while, and he answered all my questions in depth and was just generally a good guy. I might be spending some time at that brewery, time will tell.

So, the collaboration pale ale, Agent Orange, won me a Silver medal in the 2012 Midwinter Home Brew Competition, which had over 650 entries!

Check it out here: http://midwinterhbc.beerbarons.org/

I think it’s really cool that two homebrewers came together to make this recipe, which then won a metal (good vibes, man).

I have more updates to come, including a big one about my Denver experience (in terms of beer/brewing) soon.