Beer lovers and craft brewing fans appreciate the work of a brewmaster, even if they don’t know what that title precisely means. However, they probably surmise that this professional does something special associated with a unique and complex process near and dear to their hearts.
Beer making continues to grow as an industry and a passion in new and exciting directions, mainly thanks to the emergence of craft breweries in nearly every nook and cranny of the U.S. that, as a collective but independent industry, rival the corporate brewing industry.
In November 2019, 2nd Kitchen shared that ‘In 2008, there were just over 1,500 breweries in the United States. As of late 2018, there were 7,450+ breweries in America.’ In a little over a decade, talented and enthusiastic brewmasters have played an instrumental part in this enormous boom.
Are you considering a career in professional craft brewing? If so, keep reading to learn more about this exciting, desirable, competitive, and highly specialized career path to see what you need to do to become a knowledgeable and creative leader in brewing science and art.
What is a Brewmaster?
A brewmaster is responsible for all aspects and phases related to making high-quality beer that both new and loyal customers know they can rely on every time they make a purchase. Common duties of brewmasters include:
- Creating new and unique beer recipes
- Selecting the best ingredients
- Preparing beer mixtures
- Overseeing the fermenting process
- Checking the temperatures and quality of beer samples
- Recording notes regarding the quality assurance process
- Sampling the brews at different phases to ensure the line, flavor, and taste is up to their standards
- Meeting with laboratory workers to find ways to refine the product
- Conducting equipment and beer process checks and adjusting when needed
- Correcting any issues identified during testing and sampling stages
- Working with vendors and suppliers to develop strong, positive, ongoing working relationships to keep them open to new products
- Managing staff and other resources to meet product and company objectives
- Using creativity to develop beer recipes and learning and ensuring each recipe appeals to a specified market
As a brewmaster, you will need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the art and science behind the brewing process. Ultimately, the responsibility lies at your feet to understand, develop, and deliver irresistible brews your customers love. Remember, there is a lot of competition in the beer-buying market, so you need to learn the craft beer business top to bottom and inside-out.
How to Become a Brewmaster
If you want to turn your passion for craft brewing into your career, you might wonder where and how to start. Many people wonder if it is possible to pursue formal education to support a brewing career. Fortunately, you are likely to find a respected school that offers a certificate program that will get you moving in the right direction.
There are additional steps you can take to become a top brewmaster, where you do what you love and rise to the top of your field. Here are a few things you can do to become a brewmaster:
1. Increase Your Beer Knowledge
You know you enjoy beer and would love to spend your days working with it, but there’s more to the life of a brewmaster than drinking beer. You need to start building and developing a well-rounded knowledge of various beers, both craft and corporate. Visit your local bars and buy different products over time to strengthen and refine your palate. Remember: take your time so you don’t go broke or take in an excess of alcohol in the process. If you’re visiting local bars for research, remember to designate a driver to get home safely.
2. Brew Beer at Home
People have brewed beer in their basements or garages for several decades, so there’s no reason you can’t hop right in and do it yourself. A quick search online will yield plenty of information on how anyone can start home brewing, but you’ll want to take it to the next level. As you progress, you will slowly incorporate chemistry, microbiology, and beverage service management into your personal brewing process.
You might have already started brewing beer at home as a hobby and decided to turn it into your career. If so, you are a few steps ahead of the process and well on your way. However, in taking your home brewery to a more professional level, there are some things you might want to learn, including:
- Ingredients. Knowing the basic ingredients of beer is the first step in becoming a home brewer and brewmaster. Basic ingredients include grain, hops, yeast, and water. As you know, craft beer brewing is about what you can add to your brew to make it one-of-a-kind for your audience. Today’s favorite brewing companies infuse ingredients like fruits, herbs, flowers, spices, extracts, and even vegetables, so the world is your oyster.
- Batch Sizes. Do you want to start by making brews for yourself and your friends to drink? If so, start with a small-batch, one-gallon brew, sometimes called ‘brew-in-a-bag.’ That way if you don’t like it, you’ve lost fewer resources, like time, ingredients, and containers. If you like it, you can enjoy what you’ve made and study it to figure out ways to replicate, enhance, or improve it.
- Equipment. Home beer brewing requires some equipment and supplies, such as fermenters and accessories, airlocks and stoppers, transfers and siphons, sanitizers, brew pots and paddles, beer bottles and bottling equipment, chillers, gas burners, and caps and seals.
- Sanitization. As a brewmaster, you will need to ensure sanitization — always keep this as a priority throughout your home brewing journey. The last thing you want is to impact the health of your consumers, as well as incur fines and other penalties from the local health department. You want to earn and maintain a sterling reputation with the health department, your customers, and competitors. Unsanitary conditions will contaminate and ruin your brews, so think of it as protecting your creations, customers, and yourself.
3. Enter a Local Brewing Contest
Once you have developed a beer recipe you love and your friends can’t stop raving about, it is time to bring your homebrewed creation to the public. While you might not be ready for prime time at your local pub, you might enter a local brewing contest to see how your craft brew compares.
Here are a few steps you can take to enter and possibly win a local brewing contest:
- Find the right contest that features your type of homebrew and category
- Give yourself about one month to prepare, allowing your brew to ferment and carbonate for bottle-conditioning or force-carbonating
- Enjoy what is usually a quiet competition where judges sip and sample various brews
- Understand that there are specific guidelines judges follow to ensure accurate and fair judgment of each entrant
4. Find an Entry-Level Job at a Brewery
Whether you find an entry-level job, internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer at a local brewery, this kind of experience is invaluable. You’ll be asked to take on menial tasks like keg cleaning, bottling, canning, or even general maintenance. However, make sure to let the brewery owner or manager know that you want to learn the industry and plan to make it your career, and ask them if they might offer insights while you are there. Regardless of the agreement, with the right attitude, the information you seek will probably come naturally since brewmasters and their teams have a passion for what they do. In any case, stay humble and curious, and the chances are strong you’ll learn plenty.
5. Get a Formal Education
If you feel ready to turn your passion-based hobby into a profession, formal education will help you learn the art, science, and trade from all vantage points. Explore the Johnson & Wales University (JWU) professional craft brewing certificate program to get started.
Get the education you need to become a brewmaster by earning your professional certificate in craft brewing from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].