Expert Topic Employment Opportunities in the Beer Business Beyond Brewing

Brewers are called to the profession out of a love for art and science. It is physically demanding but brimming in tradition and creativity. To rise through the ranks at a brewery from various jobs to once day becoming holder of a mash paddle is a great accomplishment. But there are many job opportunities in the brewing industry outside the role of brewer.

Some brewers will continue on with their education and push forward, taking on additional responsibilities and others will open their own breweries. Others, after a time, will decide to leave the brew deck for other jobs or leave the brewing industry all together.

For those that choose to stay in the beer industry, there are more employment opportunities than ever before. Over the last 45 years as the popularity of craft beer has grown, a large number of industries have risen up to support the efforts of beer makers.

From agriculture to architecture, equipment manufacturing, sales, and media services that are entire cottage industries that cater to craft brewing and beer in general. For professional brewers that are looking to make a change into something different, the time has never been better.

The pandemic helped a lot of people put their careers into perspective. From focusing on health and well-being to family and longevity, sometimes all a brewer needs is the little push from inside to make the switch.

“I think something that is really hard with the beer industry is that there’s this like cool guy vibe that comes with being a brewer you get like interviewed, you’re on podcasts, the public sort of know who you are,” said Natalie Baldwin of Wayfinder Beer in Portland, Oregon. “And there’s this big piece of our identity that gets tied to our jobs as brewers.”

Baldwin was hosting the Brewer to Brewer Podcast from All About Beer and interviewing Cat Wiest, a long-time brewer who recently began a marketing and copywriting job with Yakima Chief Hops.

“Leaving brewing was not hard for me,” said Wiest. “I was I was looking for opportunities to do less physical work. I now have arthritis in my knees. And like most brewers [my] back hurts all the time, and I will never got to sit down. I was really tired of coming home from work. And feeling physically drained. So physically drained, that I couldn’t do the physical things that make me happy.

“My husband would say, ‘hey, let’s go for a hike’. And I’m just like, ‘I need to lay down and with my legs up, because my knee is so swollen’, or I don’t have the mental energy for creative projects that would bring me some happiness because I’m just like zonked, I just want to sit on a couch and watch like four episodes of something on Netflix, and then go to sleep and start over, because the hours are long and kind of unforgiving at times.

I don’t think that what identity that I do have as a brewer could be stripped by not being in that position, just because of the work that I’ve done through my time working in brewhouses.”

In college was a journalism and horticulture student and was able to use those stills and education to transition into the copywriting gig.

“I kind of always wanted to work for them because everyone there is stoked and they don’t leave, which is a key thing to look for,” said Wiest. “Places with low turnover might be like really good work environments. So, this opportunity came up and they were willing for it to be remote, which is huge for me.”

Melissa Myers, who worked as a long-time brewer at a variety of spots before taking a leave from the industry in 2008 notes that when she considered getting back into brewing “there were 20 brewers for every single position that existed. When I tried to get back in there wasn’t anything available at the time.”

She decided to go a different route and open a beer shop in Oakland, California. Now The Good Shop is one of the most respected beer stores in the country. The road to get there wasn’t easy and Myers says she was taking small business courses, learning about entrepreneurship, and navigating retail and the three-tier system.

On a separate episode of Brewer to Brewer Myers said that her time in breweries and understanding of beer styles has helped keep the shelves stocked with the very best. She is also able to visit breweries for collaborations and spend time using those well-established skills to create new beers.

For professional brewers that are looking to make a switch from physical brewing but want to stay in beer there are some tips that can help with the transition.

1. Consider a field that interests you.

For brewers that are passionate about raw ingredients think about farming, sales, or other jobs with growers and suppliers. For engineers, look to manufacturing companies, to be with the public, consider sales or marketing roles. A job switch should play into your professional strengths and interests.

2. Get to know the companies and employees on a deeper level.

Making the switch to a familiar company can be rewarding. Brewers come in contact with a lot of different companies around the beer space. Familiarity is important but doing research and asking questions of current employees will help get a better handle on the actual working environments and might also help with employment recommendations.

3. Look into advance degrees and continuing education.

After identifying an employment area of interest look into any special skills, courses, or degrees that might be necessary or welcome to get a leg up on being selected.

If the time comes to make a change cast a wide net and let your peers and acquaintances know that you’re open to work.

“I reached out to a lot of folks but I want to be very intentional,” said Wiest. “A lot of folks were just super receptive would send me job postings or offer a little bit of counseling. I did reach out to a lot of folks to make sure that I was kind of covering all my bases and not like selling myself short. And just the amount of support that I got. was kind pretty cool.”

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