Do you love beer? Can’t get enough of the wonderful Duff? Can you tell the subtle difference in taste between a Nastro Azzuro and a Birra Moretti? Or are you a devoted campaigner for real ale? Well then, have you ever considered turning your passion for ‘the amber nectar’ into a full-time career?
Technical brewers are the absolute geniuses that create, produce and package the beers that quench our thirst, excite our taste buds and make us behave like idiots from time to time (please drink responsibly!).
These technical gurus are employed by all kinds of breweries, from huge international companies like Budweiser and Carlsberg to small microbreweries that produce speciality ales, like the Old Cannon Brewery in Bury St Edmunds and the Camden Town Brewery.
If you enter this line of work, you’ll be managing and coordinating all brewing activities, handling the procurement of raw materials, maintaining equipment, managing junior personnel, planning production runs and making sure everything complies with health, safety, hygiene, quality and environmental regulations.
In order to produce world-beating beer, you’ll be responsible for making sure optimal brewing conditions are maintained with regards to temperature and so forth. Furthermore, you’ll be experimenting with new flavours, ingredients and techniques to produce new exciting lagers, ales, bitters, milds, stouts and weissbiers.
Salary & benefits
Salaries are driven by individual experience and expertise, since brewing is a specialty activity which cannot easily be duplicated by technology or automation.
Brewers with little experience (trainees) can earn between £15,000 and £25,000, while brewers with a significant amount of experience and leadership responsibilities can earn around £25,000 to £35,000.
Chief brewers or master brewers with proven expertise can even earn up to £80,000 a year.
Many breweries operate on a 24/7 basis with planned shifts, so individual working hours are long and erratic, especially at junior levels. Technical qualifications obtained in the UK are also recognised in other countries and therefore many brewers look for overseas opportunities as well.
Entry-level positions are open to graduates with a strong degree (2:1 minimum) in a subject such as brewing and distilling, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, brewing engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, microbiology, nutrition or food technology.
Candidates with degrees in other disciplines will need to complete a postgraduate course in a brewing-specific discipline. All candidates need to successfully complete exams administered by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), which is the main professional body in this industry.
Training & progression
Basic foundation training is provided by completing the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s brewing diploma. Large brewing organisations will sponsor their new graduate trainees through this process. Some employees may even complete the master brewer qualification known as the MBrew.
As you progress in your career, you’ll move from an entry-level technical role to become a team leader, then a head brewer and finally a technical brewing director. Quite often, opportunities for career progression are limited as breweries merge and the number of independent breweries decreases.
Senior management roles often mean taking a step back from the hands-on technical work and focusing on business development, marketing, procurement, logistics and strategy. Other alternatives for career progression involve branching out into other general management and planning roles or finding employment overseas.