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What They Do

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A brewmaster is a person in charge of making beer at a brewery. They may also be called a brewer or head brewer. A beer is any drink made by fermenting malted barley that is seasoned with hops. Other key ingredients are water and yeast. There are as many different techniques for brewing beer as there are types of beer.

A brewmaster is responsible for the entire process of making beer. This includes mixing ingredients, developing recipes and overseeing the fermentation process.

"I work in new product development, so I get to make new brands, and experiment and play around with different ingredients and raw materials," says assistant brewmaster Grady Hull.

There are several different types of breweries in North America. Here are some definitions from the Brewers Association website:

There are several different types of breweries in North America. Here are some definitions from the Association of Brewers website:

Microbrewery: A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year.

Craft brewery: A brewery that produces less than six million barrels of beer per year.

Brew pub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar.

Contract brewing company: A business that hires another company to produce its beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery.

Large brewery: A brewery that produces more than six million barrels of beer per year.

In smaller plants, the brewer is also in charge of operating all the equipment, looking after quality control and helping to fix the machinery that is used to distill beer.

A brewmaster is in charge of operation planning, labor, quality control, looking after broken equipment, engineering new systems to distill the beer, purchasing raw materials, customer service and new product development.

"My responsibility is the quality of the beer," says brewmaster Mike Kelly. "My responsibility is how the beer turns out.

"It's different at every brewery -- some people are in charge of the entire facility, from the front door to the back door, and do all the hiring and firing and all that kind of thing," Kelly adds. "With me, I do the scheduling and I get all the ingredients and I do the quality control and I test all the beer and make sure everything's to specification."

At larger companies, the brewmaster is still in charge of production, but more as an administrator. The brewer is in charge of the quality control of raw materials and the end product. However, assistants usually do more of the physical labor, while the brewmaster does more paperwork.

When you start out at a brewery, you'll likely be doing a lot of hands-on, menial work. And the physical part of the job is always there, even for brewmasters.

"It's not like I'm sitting in an office and directing traffic," says Kelly. "I'm out there too, making the beer. I'm making beer right now, and transferring it. And I'm going to be cleaning the tank in a minute.

"It depends on the level -- as you get larger, the brewmaster would have to do more managing of personnel and... the goal is always to spend more time on your quality control and to do the things I've been trained to do," Kelly adds. "The more time I'm scrubbing tanks, that's time taken away from quality control, so it's important when you get to a certain size to morph out of that position into a more technical or scientific position."

Part of a brewmaster's job is explaining the brewing process to customers, meeting with management, and ordering supplies and ingredients.

The hours that brewers put in depend on where they work. In a larger company, a brewmaster who oversees production might work a regular 9-to-5 day. In smaller companies, a brewer is more likely to work irregular and long hours, especially if the brewer is also the owner.

"It's not going to be a full-time job," says Tracy Hurst. She's the founder and co-owner of a brewery in Chicago.

"It's going to be two full-time jobs if you want to run your own brewery, [maybe] three full-time jobs if you want to run your own brewery. And you have to be willing to dedicate yourself to it fully and do whatever it takes.

"You have to be willing to work odd hours because brewing jobs are hard to come by," Hurst adds. "So if you're willing to move to another location to work, and you're willing to work second, third shifts, you have a better job of getting a job as a brewer in a brewery.

An administrative position won't include as much physical work. However, most brewmasters have their hands in the entire brewing process. This means they have to lift heavy crates, mix ingredients and fix broken equipment.

At a Glance

Brew beer or oversee the production of beer

  • A taste for microbrews is energizing this field
  • A love of beer is mandatory
  • Experience is essential and management skills are helpful


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