Home Brewer to Pro Brewer – What’s Involved

Home brewer to pro brewer; I get asked about making the jump all the time. I have been in the trade for 25 years; so, people like to ask me about the brewing industry a lot.

I am currently mentoring a 20-year old from the US who reached out to me after reading my guide “How to get into the Brewing Industry”. I’m always happy help aspiring brewers whenever I can.

I have had many people help me with my brewing career so, it’s nice to be able to give back. If you’re looking for any advice then please feel free to reach out me at: [email protected]

However, to balance my advice on how to go from home brewer to pro brewer, I felt I should highlight some of the less glamorous aspects to brewing too.

Home Brewer to Pro Brewer

Going from home brewer to pro brewer at any scale involves risk, challenges as well as other considerations before making the jump. I have listed 5 thoughts to contemplate, involving the less well-known facets of brewing.

1. You’ll Brew the same Beers all the Time

I’ve worked in a number of breweries. In one brewery I brewed the same beer for over 2 years. That’s right; the same recipe 3 times a week for 104 weeks! We made one other special beer for Halloween in that time.

It was my first ever job, making a traditional German pilsner. It didn’t put me off and I am still brewing 23 years later. In an average American craft brewery, you might see one IPA recipe make up 25-30% of your brew schedule.

In China 30-40% of sales in a regular brewpub is often one wheat beer recipe. Furthermore, the simpler the recipe the better. It’s a far cry from home brewing where you can brew whatever you want.

The upside is, a good brewer with attention to detail will be able to hone his/her skills making the same beer over and over again. It allows you to work on your processes plus all that data recording on the same beer with some tweaks will build-up your skillset.

2. First You Clean and then You Write Stuff Down

I would guess that brewing is about 65% cleaning. You’re working with sugar liquids a lot of the time and its sticky stuff. A brewer will be cleaning and sanitizing a lot. You need to be familiar with different chemicals (always wear proper PPE), ratios, temperatures, times and application method.

This doesn’t bother me for the most part. You see; I am lucky as I find cleaning therapeutic. However, if you’re they type of person to say “ah, those dishes can wait till tomorrow morning”. Then brewing might not be the job for you.

Home Brewer to Pro Brewer - Scaling Up

So, what about the other 35%? Well 15% of that might well be paperwork. I hate paperwork; it’s just something I have to live with if I want to brew. When you brew there’s a lot of data to be recorded and it’s very important.

Then depending on the country, you brew in there maybe a lot of paperwork needed for government checks. So yeah that leaves about 20% for brewing beer and packaging.

3. Home Brewer to Pro Brewer – Pro Brewing = Less Drinking

When home brewing; many people like to drink whilst they’re making beer. It’s a hobby and often a casual experience. Yes, I know there are home brewers who take their brewing seriously.

As a professional brewer you still drink beer. However, the experience will be quite different. It’s a lot more about sampling and speaking with your colleagues to get their thoughts.

You’ll be doing sensory analysis to check for carbonation, clarity, off-flavors and if the beer meets expected flavor profile. Yes, there are some more scientific tests to be done but an initial taste test is preferred.

You have to taste your beer to know your beer!

Oh, and a lot of this testing is done before 9 am. So, the samples are small, say 50ml at the most. The rest of your day you’ll be handling chemicals, lifting heavy items, working with machinery, pressurizing tanks and making sure the beer is the best it can be.

So, it seems funny to write it this, but beer and brewing don’t go together. If you want to drink a beer then make sure it is after your shift.

Ok, so not all the points are negative…I kind of lied a bit (sorry).

4. Brewing is a Great Community

Look; we can’t give away all our secrets to other breweries. However, many brewers are open to offering tips, guidance and hacks when allowed. Yes, there are some brewer with NDA’s or brewers who don’t want to divulge anything in case they give away their “secrets”.

For the most part in my 25 years in the industry; the brewers I have met have been great company and will try to help where possible. They will tell you when they can’t help due to a conflict of interests and it’s all good.

Most brewers feel “a rising tide lifts all boats” in other words helping a fellow brewer aids the whole brewing industry. I’ve found this to be the case in China for sure. Craft beer is in its infancy here; so, the better the beer available truly benefits everyone.

5. There is time to let Your Hair Down

Ok, we’ve said there’s a lot of unglamorous work in the brewing industry. However, going from home brewer to pro brewer doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. I love being a brewer and couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

The beer industry is a fun one to be in; plus, you’ll meet a lot of great people for sure. When the day is finished and there is no more cleaning, heavy lifting, brewing and paperwork to be done a cold beer is a life affirming experience. Plus, you’ve most likely made it and that rocks!!!

Six Rock Saison - Fat Fat Beer Horse
Six Rock Saison – Fat Fat Beer Horse

Beer brings people together. Beer is associated with people having a good time and when your brew facilitates that, it’s a great feeling. Seeing people enjoy your beer never gets old.

People like to see the brewer or owner drinking their own beer and talking with the crowd. It helps build a sense of community and connection to the brewery. Just makes sure that beer is after the end of the shift.

Home Brewer to Pro Brewer – A Conclusion

Brewing doesn’t involve a lot of actual “brewing”. It’s a manual job with a lot of repetitive simple tasks in most instances. However, the camaraderie and the fact your turn 4 raw materials into a liquid people enjoy is an amazing experience.

Are you looking to become a brewer or get into the brewing industry and are looking for advice? If I can help I will (no I can’t find you a job) so, feel free to reach out to me at:

[email protected]

Thanks for reading my article and have a great day!

Oh quick tip…the MBAA podcast are a good listen to learn more about brewing: https://www.masterbrewerspodcast.com/episodes

Cheers

Neil

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at [email protected].
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Randy Liew

Very insightful view. As a fellow asian brewer, thank you for such a good writing.