How to get a job as a brewer

January 17, 2022

How to get a job as a brewer

So you want to throw in your job and brew beer for a living?

Great!

You’ve come to the right place, because this will either dash your dreams or solidify them.

Now, please realise brewing beer is one of the toughest industries to break into.

It’s bloody hard and only the most talented and passionate succeed. If you’ve only got a mild interest in brewing, that’s not enough. You need to brew beer because you fucking love it. THEN you need to accept that you’ll be working as a stable hand as the tattooed & bearded masters ride the stainless steel tanks to beer town for a long time before you get your shot.

Think of brewing a bit like other creative industries where only the top 2% make a decent living, everyone else just does it for the pure enjoyment of making beer. Consider the life of an artist, or musician who dedicates thousands of unpaid hours to hone their talents, practising, dreaming, learning. But even then, that’s as far as it goes for most.

It’s a war of attrition, with only the true brewers surviving to make careers of their passion.

Now I’d like to provide a caveat here - I’m not a very good brewer.

Each of my brews could be named the “Details Shmetails Ale”, never to be repeated and occasionally dumped. But I do enjoy it. The time it takes, the anticipation, the comradery and ultimately the reward of drinking something made by my own hands. And then getting high on my own supply! It’s epic!

I don’t have the patience or attention to detail to do it professionally, however since starting Bucketty’s with my wife, I am in a unique position to see a brewer’s life from a more impartial standpoint.

Our assistant brewers Dan, Gareth and Arron love cleaning kegs and filling cans. That’s what they’ll tell you. But I reckon that’s an outrageous lie. Working in a hot sticky environment doing a menial job for hours on end isn’t fun, this isn’t China. We have our own free will to say if we don’t like something. But I reckon they trick themselves into enjoying it because the payoff is being part of the brewing process and occasionally getting up on the brewdeck to help out.

Occasionally.

Most day’s they’re basically tank cleaners.

Check out this interview I did with Dan, part of our founding team and our first assistant brewer, shortly after we opened which tells a bit of the story on being an assistant brewer.   

The other thing to think about when considering a career change is the crap pay. As a trainee/assistant brewer you’ll be entering the industry on the award wage for food processing, which is about $20-25/hr. That averages out at about $43k per year for a full time 38hr week.

Not much hey?

The upside is you’ll get a shit load of free beer, which is handy, cause you won’t be able to afford craft beer anymore. Have you seen the prices these days!

Other benefits include:

  • You’ll probably grow more facial hair
  • Drinking at work is socially acceptable
  • Your friends will think you’re pretty rad
  • You’ll learn the value of a hard days work, like the olden days

Still want in?

Ok, let’s turn your delicate keyboard hands into those of a brewer, full of callouses, chemical burns and testosterone.

Here’s how you get a job working in a brewery.

Volunteer. Do anything that needs doing and get stuck in with unbridled enthusiasm.  

A few regular volunteer shifts will elevate you to the top of the queue when a job becomes available. The volunteer shifts let the brewery work out if you’re any good and whether you guys like each other.

When we hire at Bucketty’s, we look for people with passion, initiative and a solid work ethic. If you can demonstrate these traits while you’re sweating your tits off scrubbing a tank at 7am, then it’s just a matter of time before you get called up to a paid gig.

Our head brewer, Tony D, started his career as a volunteer before working his way up. We hired Dan because he said he’d do whatever it takes and offered to volunteer (we ended up paying him from day 1 because we were so busy), Gareth floated around the brewery on his days off helping wherever he could for months before we were busy enough to add another member to the brew team and our latest recruit, Arron, regularly volunteered on the canning line packing boxes.

Everyone that works in a brewery should get paid. No doubt. But if there’s no official work and a someone wants to volunteer and learn about brewing, that’s a different story.

I write this with caution, and don’t want this to be taken out of context. This isn’t a way for breweries to get free labour. It’s a way for you to get your foot in the door.

A conversation with a keen volunteer normally goes something like this:

Aspiring brewer to us – “Got any jobs going?”

Us – “Sorry, no”

Aspiring brewer – “Can I come in for a brew day and volunteer to see what it’s about?”

Us – “Sure!”

At the end of they day

Aspiring brewer – “That was great! Can I come back again next week?”

Us – “Sure!”

Volunteering is also the best way for you to peek behind the curtains and decide if brewing really is something you want to dedicate your life to.

Good luck, good speed, and may the odds be forever in your favour.