Expert Topic Hiring the best brewers

by Teri Fahrendorf
© Teri Fahrendort, reprinted with permission of author

Four Main Points
1. Develop your management skills.
2. Take the time in hiring to avoid the pain of firing.
3. 1 + 10% Hiring: Hire someone 10% smarter or more experienced than you are.
4. Train the people who work for you to do the same.

The Resume & Cover Letter as a Tool
1. Resume = Reports the facts. A snapshot of the candidate’s technical background (left brain).
2. Cover Letter = An opportunity for the candidate to sell him/herself or make his/her case. Or not. A snapshot of the candidate’s personality & interest level (right brain).
3. A great cover letter & resume gives the candidate a competitive edge and gets the first Interview.
4. Shows communication skills. Especially if combined with phone conversations.

Positive Aspects to Look for On The Cover Letter & Resume
1. Related experience (incl. homebrewing) = ability to get-up-to-speed quickly, low training cost.
2. Good communication skills = shows organization and maturity.
3. Excellent looking resume & cover letter = good attention to details.
4. Persistence = hard-working, sticks to it when things get tough.
5. Leadership positions = takes on responsibility, self-motivated & self-directed.
6. Long stints at small number of jobs = dedicated employee.

Negative Aspects to Avoid – Related Examples
1. No related experience = not serious about becoming a brewer.
2. Poor communication (phone, written) = unorganized, difficult to train.
3. Cover or resume missing or typos = disrespectful, not serious, careless.
4. No follow-up to the resume = not really interested in the job.
5. No leadership positions = looking for job & not career, avoids responsibility.
6. Small stints at lots of jobs = easily bored & restless, gone in a year.

The Dream Candidate Has These Good Qualities
1. Attitude: Cheerful, friendly and sincere.
2. Character: Honest, dedicated, hard-working, capable, competent, and focused.
3. Personality: Flexible, organized, determined, and follows directions well.
4. Resume & Cover Letter.
5. Job Interviews.
6. Anything else he/she can offer me as an employer. (I don’t really care about his/her desires to move to Oregon, or similar things at this point.)

Less Than Desirable Candidate Traits
1. The candidate thinks he/she is God’s gift to brewing. This points out that he/she is not realistic about the requirements of the job. They are often not able to wear more than one hat at a time, and may not be able to manage the brewery like a business.
2. The candidate is not conscious that you are a BUSY person.
3. The candidate is not patient or courteous with you, even if you aren’t with them (but please try to be!)
4. The cover letter & resume are not short and too the point. They are chatty and use extraneous words, which you don’t have time to read, which causes you to put them aside to read “later”, so you never get the important part of their resume today, if ever.
5. The candidate doesn’t take the effort to find out the correct spelling of your name, & your gender!
6. The candidate was too lazy to mail a resume and faxed or e-mailed it. (Unless you specifically asked for this.)
7. The cover letter was written on their current employer’s letterhead stationary.
8. The cover letter or resume contains negative information. (“I imploded a fermenter…”)
9. The candidate does not state or make obvious what they want with this contact with you.
10. The candidate included a casual snapshot with their dog/drinking buddies.

Why make a brewer candidate jump through hoops for the job? What you get:
1. A more dedicated employee. (People appreciate what they had to work hard for.)
2. An employee who know his/her place in the organization, and is happy there. (No false expectations.)
3. An employee who knows you believe in him/her and that you will stick up for him/her to the owners or other money powers. (For raises, etc.)
4. An employee the owners are happy with.
5. An employee with less chance for drug or alcohol abuse problems.
6. An employee you can work with for a long time.
7. An employee with admirable character traits.

The Concept of 1 + 10% Hiring
1. The Incredible Growing Company:
a. Make hiring choices based on growing the company.
b. Hire someone 10% smarter or more experienced than you are.
c. Make sure they will hire someone 10% smarter or more experienced.
d. 1 x 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 = 1.46, or an increase in potential capabilities by nearly 50%, just due to hiring practices.
2. The Incredible Shrinking Company:
a. Make hiring choices based on job security.
b. Hire someone 10% less smart or experienced than you are. (90% as capable as you are.)
c. Allow them to hire someone 10% less capable than they are, in order to protect their hierarchy in the organization.
d. 1 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 = .66, or 2/3 of potential capabilities; the 1/3 reduction merely due to hiring practices.

The Benefits of 1 + 10% Hiring
1. No dead weight looking out for job preservation.
2. The company is growing.
a. Warning – You’d better grow too! You need to be as flexible or more flexible than your company and your employees, because the future is here and you need to lead the way!
3. In addition, with proper training and mentoring:
a. Everybody gets challenged and is at peak performance.
b. Nobody gets bored, as everyone is able to wear several hats, and does so.


As a manager you are a mentor and a leader. Please keep the following seven guidelines* in mind:

1. Strive to be respected, rather than liked.
a. Don’t accept favors from your brewers.
b. Don’t extend special favors trying to be liked.
c. Don’t worry whether a decision will be popular.
d. Don’t be soft about discipline.
e. Separate friends from subordinates: don’t make them the same people.
f. Do have a sense of humor.

2. Ask your brewers for their advice and help.
a. Make your brewers feel a problem is their problem too.
b. Encourage individual thinking.
c. Make it easy for them to communicate their ideas to you.
d. Weigh their ideas against your experience.
e. Follow through on their ideas.

3. Develop a sense of responsibility and “ownership” in your brewers.
a. Allow freedom of expression.
b. Give each person a chance to learn your job.
c. When you give responsibility, give authority too.
d. Hold your brewers accountable for bottom line results.

4. Emphasize skill rather than rules.
a. Give your brewer a job to do, and then let them do it.
b. Allow your brewers to improve methods & procedures if does not affect beer quality & flavor, and after you weigh it against your experience. Evaluate improved procedures for transferability to other locations.

5. Keep criticism constructive.
a. Never assume who is at fault.
b. Get the facts first.
c. Control your temper.
d. Praise before you criticize.
e. Listen to the other side of the story.
f. Allow your brewer to retain his/her dignity.
g. Suggest specific steps to prevent recurrence.
h. Forgive and forget.

6. Pay attention to employee gripes and complaints.
a. Make it easy for your brewers to come to you.
b. Get rid of red tape.
c. Explain any grievance procedures.
d. Always grant a hearing.
e. Help your brewer voice his/her own complaint.
f. Repeat back what you thought you heard them say.
g. Practice patience.
h. Ask a complainer what they want you to do.
i. Don’t render a hasty or biased judgment.
j. Get all the facts.
k. Let the person know what your decision is.
l. Double-check your results.
m. Be concerned and pay attention.

7. Keep your brewers informed.
a. Let your brewers know where they stand with you.
b. Praise people properly.
c. Let your brewers in on your plans at an early stage.
d. Let people know as early as possible of any changes that will affect them.
e. Let them know of changes that will not affect them, but about which they may worry.
f. Be accessible.

NOTE: The above seven guidelines were adapted from the book, “The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make and How to Correct Them”, by James K. Van Fleet.

Steelhead/Bulldog Brewing Co. Example:


Below are listed examples of some of the job responsibilities of a Steelhead/Bulldog Head Brewer and his/her Brewers:

A. Daily duties.
1. Take level readings on the serving tanks.
2. Monitor sugar decrease in fermenters.
3. Monitor pressure build up in fermenters.
4. Monitor quality and temperature of fermenting beers.
5. Monitor quality, flavor and carbonation of serving beers.
6. Monitor usage of serving beers.
7. Filter finished beer when beer is aged enough in the fermenter.
8. Keg off the old beer in the server.
9. Brew beer when a fermenter is empty.
10. Monitor and make rootbeer.
11. Manage and monitor everything listed below.
12. Rearrange production schedule as necessary daily.
13. Reschedule Assistant Brewer’s time as necessary.

B. Weekly duties.
1. Labwork.
2. Verify beerlines were cleaned, or clean them.
3. Create brew/filter production schedule.
4. Fill out and fax Weekly Beer Management Report.

C. Semi-monthly duties.
1. Federal BATF excise taxes.
2. When keg dock sales begin, go through keg sheets, make calls and send notices.

D. Monthly duties.
1. Federal BATF excise taxes.
2. State excise taxes (OLCC or ABC).
3. Inventory at the brewery & at any warehouse site.
4. Represent Steelhead Brewing Co. (or Bulldog Brewing Co.) at local small brewer association meetings (OBG or CSBA).

E. Bi-monthly duties.
1. Clean out silo.
2. Take delivery of pale malt in silo.

F. Quarterly duties.
1. See the Seasonal Maintenance and Cleaning Schedule for a more complete list.
2. Take delivery of specialty malt. Rent a forklift only if necessary. Verify order and sort by type for future inventory taking.
3. Deep-clean outsides of tanks, floors, etc.

G. Semi-annual duties.
1. See the Seasonal Maintenance and Cleaning Schedule for a more complete list.
2. Preventative maintenance acid washing and re-passivation of all tanks. (Including mash screens and DE Filter.) 3. Take butterfly valves apart for cleaning.

H. Irregularly scheduled duties.
1. Attend and work at beer festivals, promoting Steelhead/Bulldog. (Get everything ready – beer, jockeybox, CO2, coasters, banner, displays & literature.)
2. Talk to the media.
3. Talk to the public (our customers or people passing through).
4. Personally answer inquiries from breweriana collectors.
5. Personally answer inquiries from microbrew enthusiasts. 6. Give tours.
7. Teach managers & bartenders to give tours if possible.
8. Give speeches to local service clubs, conferences, etc.
9. Read brewing periodicals to keep up with technology.
10. Keep ears open for possible future competition in your area.
11. Deal with Steelhead/Bulldog insurance people, local and regional regulators, and any other authority a brewery must deal with regularly or at irregular intervals.
12. Schedule new managers and bartenders to brew one day in the brewhouse with you.
14. Keep copies of customer information sheets and Celebrator Beer Newspapers stocked for the customers.


I. Manage the Brewery.
1. Design new beer recipes.
2. Monitor customer’s comments and raw materials in order to modify current regular beer recipes when necessary, and permission has been granted to do so.
3. Hire, train, and if necessary, fire Assistant Brewers.
4. Have knowledge of total operations: All equipment.
5. Have knowledge of total operations at other Steelhead/Bulldog breweries, ie: Eugene, Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco, Burlingame, Irvine, Fresno, as is feasible.
6. Design new procedures when necessary, and permission has been granted to do so.
7. Inform Teri of any new procedures.
8. Inform Teri of any quality control problems.
9. Inform Teri of beer scheduling problems. (ie: running out of beer.)
10. Do whatever the owners or Teri ask you to do, unless it is illegal.

J. Manage OSHA.
1. Keep the MSDS binder up-to-date.
2. Hold monthly safety meetings with all brewers.
3. Keep records of safety meetings and topics.
4. Schedule OSHA Consulting (not Inspection!) to come and consult on Health and Safety (not Ergonomic).
5. Follow recommendations to keep in compliance.
6. Try to stay abreast of new requirements/regulations.
7. If possible, try to involve General Manager and Kitchen Manager in safety meetings, since the law requires Company-Wide safety meetings be held quarterly.

K. Manage Supplies.
1. Keep track of beer raw materials. (malt, hops, yeast, fruit, etc.)
2. Keep track of rootbeer supplies. (rootbeer extract, sugar.)
3. Keep track of brewing supplies. (bungs, D.E., filter cartridges, chemicals, etc.)
4. Keep track of lab supplies. (alcohol burner fluid, agar media, test tubes, etc.)
5. Keep track of safety supplies. (rubber boots & gloves, band aids, goggles, etc.)

L. Manage Beer Production.
1. Keep all beers on tap at all times.
2. Produce finished beer for the pub.
3. Produce kegged beer for accounts and dock sales.
4. Monitor volume beer sales.
5. Predict volume beer sales (and dock sales).
6. Keep Cask Conditioned beer on tap Thurs.- Sat. minimum.
7. Produced Cask beer for the pub.
8. Monitor volume Cask sales.
9. Predict volume Cask sales.
10. Keep an adequate amount of Cask beer on stillage, conditioning for future use.
11. Schedule production according to monitored and predicted beer levels.
12. Brew, filter, keg, and cask beer according to the above schedule.

M. Manage Cooperage. (For cask, in-house, & future sales kegs.)
1. Paint numbers on all kegs and taps.
2. Teach bartenders/managers to keep a written record of who checks out which keg or tap.
3. Call people on the phone to remind them to return their kegs and taps.
4. Mail postcards (written notices) after 2 months.

N. Ordering. (Develop relationship with suppliers, get best prices, etc.)
1. Raw materials.
2. Rootbeer supplies.
3. Brewing supplies.
4. Lab supplies.
5. Safety supplies.
6. Supplies for the bar. (To-go bottles, caps, box set-ups, filling tubes.)
7. Kegs and Taps.
8. Office supplies. (sometimes)
9. Service suppliers. (beerline cleaning, etc.)

O. Cleaning Schedules.
1. See the Seasonal Maintenance and Cleaning Schedule for a more complete list.
2. General cleaning of fermenters and servers.
3. Preventative maintenance cleaning of fermenters, servers, kettle, liquor back, mash tun, filter, keg washer, etc.
4. Kegs.
5. Party taps.
6. Exterior of tanks and brewery walls.
7. Floors and drains.
8. Mill room.
9. Any off-site warehouse.

P. Trouble Shooting.
1. Preventative maintenance.
2. Invent gadgets and apparatus to get the job done.
3. Fix anything that breaks, if you can.
4. If you can’t fix it, hire someone who can fix it.

Q. Represent Steelhead Brewing Co. (Bulldog Brewing Co.)
1. Anytime you are in public and someone asks what you do.
2. At local small brewer’s association meetings. (Most other attendees are owners.)
3. At Master Brewers Association of the Americas meetings.
4. At local beer tastings and regional/national festivals.
5. When writing articles for national magazines.
6. As speaker for local clubs and national conferences.
7. To the local and national media.

(Since the owners of Steelhead & its spin-offs are, by choice, somewhat invisible, you will “become Steelhead” (or Bulldog) to the public.)

Steelhead/Bulldog Brewing Co. Example:


The questions on the forms labeled Personnel Interview Questions, Management Skills Interview Questions, and Reference Interview Questions in the Brewery Forms Manual were formulated to help you interview brewing personnel. Some of the questions are appropriate only for a potential Head Brewer, the rest are appropriate for both a Head Brewer and/or an Assistant Brewer.

You may think the questions are unusual, but there are specific reasons for asking them that will relate to future job performance and the ability to get along with Steelhead’s owners and managers, as well as with other employees. Take your time when interviewing a candidate. “Hire in haste, fire at your leisure.” Let’s face it; nobody wants to fire someone, so take your time up front to be really sure about your decision.

The recommended procedure to interview and hire a Head Brewer or Assistant Brewer candidate is as follows:

The 11 Steps:

1. Get a List of Qualified Possible Candidates.
For a Head Brewer candidate, call fellow professional brewers from the area that you think would be great for the job. If they are not interested, ask them if they know of anyone who is looking. Have them put the word out. Work the network. Ask around at brewing Festivals (GABF, OBF, etc.). If you are short on time, have a T-shirt printed up that says “BREWER WANTED, CITY, STATE,” for whatever the location is. If you are still looking to expand your list, call the local homebrew supply shop or homebrew club newsletter editor. They may know of professional brewers you are not aware of. Keep all resumes, even those not qualified to be the Head Brewer, because whoever becomes the Head Brewer will need to hire an assistant. If you still can’t find enough candidates, put an ad in “American Brewer” magazine. Be aware of being mobbed by under-qualified people. Don’t waste your energy or your time if possible.

For an Assistant Brewer candidate, you may already know of a few. Look through your resume file for local applicants. (We do not hire Assistant Brewers from out of the immediate area.) Call the local homebrew shop and homebrew club for names. If you can avoid putting an ad in the newspaper, you will avoid a lot of headaches. Note: It is a good idea to join the local homebrew club (and attend meetings), and Steelhead will reimburse you your membership costs, up to $15 per year.

2. Gather Resource Material on Each Candidate.
Employment and interview forms are included in the Brewery Forms Manual under Employment Forms. Have each candidate fill out a Job Application Form, a Brewer Skills Inventory sheet, and also provide you with a brewing-oriented resume, a cover letter, and a list of references. (Get several job references, and at least two personal references.) If the candidate has no professional brewing experience, have them attach a separate sheet outlining homebrewing experience and achievements, ie: what makes them different, or makes them stand out, from other homebrewers. (Awards, built own system, etc.)

3. Examine Resource Materials.
Look over resume & application for appropriate levels of experience. Look at second page of application for revealing responses. If candidate is not discarded at this point, go on.

4. The Informational Interview.
The informational interview is done over the phone to save time. Tell the candidate all about the job. Tell them the good, the bad & the ugly: What the job responsibilities are, the physical task requirements are (lifting 50 lb sacks, hauling wet grain), and the estimated amount of weekly hours. (Pay is hourly for Assistant Brewers.) Ask what their salary requirements would be for the job described. (But don’t promise anything.) If an Assistant Brewer candidate, ask how flexible they are for scheduling on a weekly and seasonal basis, and what other jobs they would be holding at the same time.

5. Calling References, Unofficial and Official.
First, think about the candidate. Who do you think may have worked with him/her or had some contact, especially professionally, with the candidate in the past. Are those contacts listed as references for this candidate? Informally call those contacts and ask about their dealings with the candidate. Ask them, off the record, do you think this candidate could do the job, and how do you think this candidate would get along with yourself, the owners, customers, other managers and employees, etc. Make a couple of notes, just so you can compare a little with other references, and with other candidates, especially if some time passes between the phone calls.

Then call the official references, ask all appropriate questions listed on the Reference Interview Questions form. Xerox this form and write right on it. Ask open-ended questions, not YES/NO questions. If other questions are prompted during the session, ask those questions too. Calling the references is required! Call all job references and at least two personal references. If the candidate is not discarded at this point, go on.

6. Extended Face-to-Face Interview.
Ideally, this interview would take place before the Brewing Interview. If the candidate is being flown in, ie: a Head Brewer candidate, this interview will probably be the day after the Brewing Interview. Slide a copy of the Personal Interview Questions form under the top page of a pad of notepaper. Don’t let the candidate see your questions. Listen well and watch their body language. Ask all appropriate questions, but don’t make notes until after the interview. Make lots of notes in private: Teri will want to see your notes. If the candidate is not discarded at this point, go on.

7. Brewing Interview.
This could be called the Working Interview or the Brew Day Interview. The candidate works with you for an entire brew-only day. (ie: No filtering or keg cleaning.) You work with them, teaching them, as if it were their very first day at work with you. You want to notice how quickly they grasp concepts and procedures. You also want to be aware of how quickly and well they respond to direction. ie: are they listening & paying attention, or, after you’ve assigned them a task, do they go off and work on a previous or different “project”. Really pay attention to whether or not you would be able to work with this person elbow-to-elbow everyday, and how well.

8. Brewmaster Interview.
Every brewer hired by Steelhead will have a face-to-face interview with Teri. This interview must happen before an offer is made, but it will take place after the Brewing Interview. Normally the final, best two candidates are both interviewed by Teri. She will discuss the two final candidates with you after her interviews, but her big-picture needs, which have the companies’ interests at heart, may differ from you needs, which may be more locally based. Teri has the final hiring decision. Normally the hiring Head Brewer will get to hire his/her first choice, but Teri’s interviews are not just a formality, and she may override your decision.

9. Sampling the Brewer’s Current Beers.
Head Brewer candidate only. Unless the candidate has won a Great American Beer Festival medal, Teri will need to sample the candidate’s currently produced product(s). Other non-subjective outside assessment of a brewer’s brewing skills may be substituted for a GABF medal at Teri’s discretion.

Assistant Brewer candidates may want to give you samples of their homebrew. This is not necessary, as we will be thoroughly training them on how to brew. Sometimes these beers are really awful, but do not let an Assistant Brewer candidate’s bad homebrew sway you away from hiring them. A bad homebrew is no indication of a brewer’s potential professional success. I have hired brewers who gave me lousy homebrews to try, and they have gone on to great acclaim as professional brewers.

10. Making the Chosen Candidate an Offer.
If candidate is a Head Brewer, the job offer will be a written Head Brewer Contract, which the candidate will have to sign.

If candidate is an Assistant Brewer, the wage will need to be approved by Teri and the local General Manager (who are representing the owner’s wishes in this capacity). The offer will be made verbally, and probably by phone. Please verbally ask the Assistant Brewer for one-month notice when they quit as a courtesy to us. (This is helpful down the road.)

11. Hiring the Candidate.
When a new brewer gives their written (Head Brewer) or verbal (Assistant Brewer) agreement to the offer, the brewer is hired pending a start date. When the candidate shows up on their first day of work, they are considered hired. Their first day of work will henceforth be known as the Hire Date on all internal forms, including insurance forms. When hired, have brewer fill out the Employee Information form, as well as any required paperwork the General Manager will give you, such as a W-2, and proof of citizenship.

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