With the explosion of new craft breweries opening, the pool of skilled and trained brewers has diminished – and this seemingly easy to solve issue is crippling the entire beer industry…
Inexperienced brewers often do not push the style boundaries, are undisciplined and can consistently make a flawed product without any understanding. Industry expert, Michael Lewis discusses this topic in his article “Point of Brew: It’s time to educate the throngs of ‘craft’ brewers” and states, “…the need for brewers has vastly outstripped the available supply of those who actually know what they are doing; that problem eventually shows up in the products available.”
Opening a brewery is the new “cool thing” and I would advise that anyone who is interested in opening a brewery hire someone who has industry experience and proper training. A professional brewer will know more than you will (I promise) and they will help you make great tasting beer, avoid classic pitfalls and spending money unnecessarily.
I’m not saying that homebrewers have never made good beer. Of course, there are exceptions in the history of craft beer such as Sam Calagione who brewed all of Dogfish Head’s early beer a keg at a time. But we’ve grown up since using homebrew knowledge to fake it until we make decent beer.
But with a more educated consumer and increased competition, the margin of error is much smaller. If you are not getting an education or actually working in a functioning brewery before spearheading your own, you are insulting every brewer who strives to improve without taking shortcuts.
Brewing school isn’t for everyone, but since every brewing operation has its own methods of operating, I think that it will give a different perspective to apply what you learn on the job instead of simply taking a brewer’s word for it. Many times, the individual for whom you are working does not know why they do something.
At the very least you should take the time to properly train your palate to understand off flavors…
I have tasted flawed beers at many breweries and either that head brewer is unaware that there is anything wrong (which is inexcusable) or does not understand how to properly fix the problem.
Michael Lewis further describes that “this challenge is even affecting the big national breweries because experienced and knowledgeable brewers are leaving for opportunities in the craft segment.” This issue is something big beer, craft beer and consumers can all agree on and work to solve together.
Additionally, if the industry continues to support uneducated and untrained brewers, it will further depress the small salaries brewers are now paid. The market place will be flooded with unskilled workers forcing down starting wages and drive would-be skilled labor into other fields and industries.
I have worked alongside almost exclusively college graduates on the brewery floor, most with additional brewery school training and even some with master’s degrees and previous experience. A starting salary of $15-18/hour is not close to what brewers of that background deserve – so imagine what will happen if unskilled workers flood the market.
Without educated and well-trained brewers there is a severe lack of innovation because brewers are too focused on getting past the basic understanding of what it takes to make good quality beer.
As an industry, we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over and with all the knowledge trained and experienced brewers have, there is no excuse for not taking the time to educate and apply…It is truly an investment for your future and the future of the industry.
Originally Published Jan. 11, 2016