How Do I Get A Job In Craft Beer Brewing?

On this blog we’ve always tried to answer the questions that we hear coming up a lot. Out of all the questions we get, one of the most common is “How do I get a job working in a craft beer brewery?” We thought it would be a good idea to address this on the blog in a series of posts.

The two most common areas of the business that we get asked about are brewing and sales. So in this article we are looking at the skills and traits of a good brewer together with some tips on how to get a job in craft beer brewing, and down the track we’ll write up how to get a job in craft beer sales.

To begin with, I’ll outline my take on what it takes to become an exemplary brewer, before we get into what we look for in our entry level brew crew, then I’ll discuss what I think are a few useful ways to get into craft beer brewing and to wrap up we’ve got profiles and comments from some of our team members.

Good to Great .. what makes an exemplary brewer

Senior Black Hops Brewer Rick Bennie

From my point of view brewing is a really unique industry, straddling a balance between having an essential analytical component, while at the same time tapping into a creative mindset.

There are a few golden truths – cleanliness, hygiene, the ability to follow processes, a comprehensive understanding of each stage of the brewing process (and their importance in the brewing lifecycle) and understanding flavours and ingredients and how they work.

Understanding the science behind the brewing will equip you with the skills to be a perfectly competent brewer, but ‘next level’ brewing requires an understanding and inherent embracing of the creative process behind making uniquely outstanding beers.

To get to the top of the brewing tree you need to understand how flavours work together. While having the technical knowledge is a solid foundation for brewing success, there are a lot of variables when it comes to brewing, and great brewers understand how they work and what they’re trying to create.

Once you’ve got your foot into the door, those who then kick the door down tend to channel this creativity into creating top notch beers. But how do you get your foot in the door in the first place?

What We Look For In All Of Our Staff

Across most roles at Black Hops we recruit both from outside the company to bring in someone with the best job/person fit, or alternatively we’ve developed individuals internally who’ve excelled in other areas of the business and who are looking for a career transition.

The right type of personality is a bottom line lock when it comes to any sort of role at Black Hops. When we choose to bring someone in from outside the company, making sure that they’re a good fit for the Black Hops culture is a non-negotiable. And being passionate about beer and being an advocate for the brand is something inherent in all of our employees.

Entry Level: Assistant Brewers and Brewers

Brew Crew legend Chelsea removing the spent grain from the lauter tun during the brewing of Tropic Like It’s Hot.

At Black Hops our entry level Assistant Brewers and Brewers work both in the brewhouse as well as providing assistance in the packaging and production areas, to help ensure that all beer that leaves the brewery is of the highest quality.

With the rise in popularity of craft beer in Australia across the last decade, the job of a brewer has become coveted and is seen as somewhat glamorous. But from the production side of things it’s a lot of hard work. Brewing is a complex and multifaceted process (which includes milling, wort production, yeast handling, CIP, monitoring fermentation and dry-hopping) and also involves operating and monitoring electronic and computerised brewing systems. Our brewers also spend time on the packaging line and supporting the cellar team. Brewers are on their feet and switched on all day and our brew crew can vouch for the fact that the role is both physically and mentally demanding, especially during our peak production cycles.

There are a few general aptitudes that we look for in our entry level Assistant Brewers and Brewers, such as good communication skills, the ability to work both independently and as part of a close knit team and an aptitude for troubleshooting and problem solving.

If you’re applying for a brewing job with Black Hops, we look highly upon those who have some type of formal brewing education. For an entry level brewing position, the Certificate III in Food Processing/Brewing (TAFE) is worth investing in. If you have yet to break into the craft beer industry you could either look to come to the table with this already behind you, or you might be working towards getting it while building up your industry experience working in another area of the brewery, such as in the taproom or as a canning line casual.

While industry experience is an obvious gateway, don’t despair If you don’t have a crapload of previous experience at a brewhouse. Our team is a great mix of both experienced industry professionals and those still on a learning curve on their brewing journey. We like to think that our Brewers that are newer to the industry are learning from some of the best in the biz. Guys like Production Manager Ian Watson, Head Brewers Satoshi ‘Toshi’ Tamura, Gareth ‘Gaz’ Spencer and Mick Guy and Senior Brewers Bill Foley and Rick Bennie are seasoned brewing pros with many years experience and proven brewing track records.

A Few Extra Tips

Outside of the previously-mentioned criteria, from my point of view understanding the importance of workplace cleanliness and organisation/attention to detail are also non-negotiable factors when it comes to what we look for in a brewer.

It’s sometimes said amongst the brewing fraternity that the first 3 steps to brewing are cleaning, cleaning and cleaning! Keeping the brewing environment clean at all times is an imperative. Any sort of contamination in the brewing process/environment is perilous to a brewery’s reputation. A big part of any entry level brewers job is to make sure the tanks, brewhouse, kegs and other equipment are always kept spotless. They’ll also sometimes be handling hazardous chemicals for cleaning and sanitation – health and safety protocols are a cornerstone of any fair dinkum brewery.

Having an organised mindset and being tidy and meticulous in the workplace are also traits that all good brewers possess. Valuing and demonstrating these traits will give us confidence that you’ll be able to handle the analytical/techy side of the job, such as monitoring the beer and brewing equipment and keeping accurate and up to date records of all brewing related data such as brew logs, packaging records and recipe sheets.

Pathways to a Job as a Craft Beer Brewer

Our cellarman Scotty adding over 120kg of Aussie, New Zealand and American hops to our G.O.A.T. Hazy IPA during fermentation.

If you’re just starting out on your brewing journey, here are a few tips which I feel will give the best chance of getting your foot in the brewhouse door.

  • Immerse yourself in the world of Craft Beer and make yourself known on the scene. Enthusiasm breeds opportunity!
  • Get busy brewing at home. Quite a lot of brewers either started out brewing at home, or even continue brewing at home once working in the industry professionally.
  • Getting a job at a brewery doing other work, such as on the canning line or behind the bar, will look good on your resume if you are applying for brewer jobs.
  • Further to this, be very good at another role in the company then look to transition internally. Staff that prove themselves inside a fast-growing company like Black Hops tend to get ahead very quickly in a range of fields. A case in point is one of our current brew crew, Corey Castles, who started out as a canning line casual before recently transitioning into a brewers role.
  • Any brewing education, whether formal or informal, shows initiative and can help you get over the line in starting out.
  • Put your hand up to be involved in beer judging or stewarding. It shows you are passionate about the industry and you will be developing some good contacts.

Meet Some Of The Black Hops Brew Crew

Satoshi ‘Toshi’ Tamura: Head Brewer (Burleigh HQ)

What is your background in the brewing industry prior to working at Black Hops?

Prior to Black Hops I worked at Brisbane Brewing Co and also at Bacchus Brewing (where I helped the boys with their first Black Hops beers before the brewery even opened!)

As a Black Hops Brewer, what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job? And what would be the most challenging aspect?

Brewing the barrel aged beers at AWOL is both the most enjoyable AND the most challenging aspect of my job!

What’s your favourite Black Hops beer (core & non core range)?

Core range – Pale Ale
Non core – ICHIBAAAN

If you could offer a key piece of advice for someone looking to break into the craft beer industry as a brewer, what would it be?

Passion, creativity, listening, watching and thinking .. and a love of cleaning!

Gareth ‘Gaz’ Spencer: Senior Brewer

What is your background in the brewing industry prior to working at Black Hops?

I started out with Bluetongue Brewing for 2.5 years (getting the role is a story in itself!) before taking on a brewers role at Burleigh Brewing Co. – a job that had been made vacant due to Govs having left! Four and a half years later I then took up a role under Govs with Black Hops and have been here now for just over three years.

As a Black Hops Brewer, what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

First and foremost, the great people that I get to work with and alongside. Everyone from all areas of the business have always gone above and beyond, putting in long hours if needed or going out of their way to support each other is to be commended and I love and respect the commitment.

And there is always the never ending supply of unusual and different brews that we are constantly putting out and although from a brewing perspective some can be quite challenging, nothing is off limits and I enjoy helping to create something amazing that may not sound like it’ll work.

And what would be the most challenging aspect of your role?

Keeping up with demand. We as a business have not had a quiet period in the three years I’ve been here. The fact that we’ve stayed committed to keeping our stock cold stored and with only a six month best-before to truly stand by the ‘fresh is best’ moto obviously creates some challenges in regards to storage space and how often we need to brew/package to meet demand for our customers, but again we have a great bunch of people to make it work.

What’s your favourite Black Hops beer (core & non core range)?

Honestly my go-to from day 1 was Hornet, although I must admit that East Coast Haze is now an equal favourite .. unless you bring in our yearly regulars, in which case Code Red trumps them both haha!

For non core range, well then there is only something like 200 to choose from hahaha. I always loved ABC Bomb but we have made some absolute crackers and to narrow it down to that one would be like asking “which is your favourite child”, so instead I have a list that have stood out for me that I absolutely loved in no particular order:

• Katwincher Pale
• #200
• 21 grams per litre
• Modern Pressure
• Chairforce One (Choc Coffee Stout)
• Sabro IPA
• Troposphere

And those are just the ones off the top of my head hahaha!

If you could offer a key piece of advice for someone looking to break into the craft beer industry as a brewer, what would it be?

Don’t give up! Brewers are currently in high demand due to the huge growth within the industry coupled with the lack of experienced people out there available, so it is a great time to be getting your foot in the door. Go to your local breweries and ask about any casual work, and if you show passion and work ethic you’re more than likely to be noticed.

Also the Tafe course in brewing is another way to get the fundamental training that gives you an idea of what is involved and will give you an edge in getting a start within the industry.

It’s hard yakka being a brewer and it’s not as glamorous as what it may appear from the outside, but it is a very fun and rewarding job and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, besides being a Rock Star hahaha!

Dominique Taylor: Brewer

What is your background in the beer/brewing industry prior to working at Black Hops?

I originally started working FOH at a brewery in North Queensland – Hemingway’s Brewery, for two seasons and each season I annoyed the boys in the brewery, wanting to know what they were doing and asking questions and probably spending more time in the brewery than on the floor. Eventually a trainee position came up and at the time I was in WA and Clemmy, the Head Brewer at the time, contacted me and asked me to apply, which I did, so I moved to Port Douglas and became a trainee brewer for nine months and then applied to be an assistant brewer at Black Hops and moved up to a brewers role a few months later.

As a Black Hops Brewer, what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job? And what would be the most challenging aspect?

I enjoy that each day is different regardless of whether it’s a brew or what’s going on in the cellar or packaging, no two days are the same. And you hit the ground running as soon as you walk through those doors. The busyness and organised chaos is probably what I enjoy the most. And honestly the crew, it’s such an amazing team, especially when it’s peak season and the pressures on and you’re all in it together.

There will always be challenges with a job, but I think that’s the best part about brewing is there are so many ways you can troubleshoot and come up with a plan to get out of the challenges. But in terms of a specific aspect, it would probably be water distribution and parts and hoses through the brewery, especially when there’s brewing, cleaning and transferring – it can get a bit tight when everyone’s trying to get on with their jobs.

What’s your favourite Black Hops beer (core & non core range)?

Favourite core – it goes between East Coast Haze and G.O.A.T.
Non core – probably Band Wagon!

If you could offer a key piece of advice for someone looking to break into the craft beer industry as a brewer, what would it be?

It’s not all just about brewing, we probably spend 85% of our time cleaning, dry hopping, trub dropping and transferring, 10% actually brewing and 5% paper work. So if you are happy to spend eleven hours being pretty dirty from the minute you walk into your shift, then do it! Start from the bottom and work your way up from packaging, cellaring and then to brewing because you’ll have a huge appreciation for each part of the brewing process. And once you do, you’ll love every minute of it!

Stuart Hallam: Brewer

What is your background in the brewing industry prior to working at Black Hops?

I moved to Whistler, Canada in 2017 with the intention of living the mountain lifestyle and learning how to brew beer. I started in the dish-pit of a local brew pub where I worked hard and took every opportunity to talk to the head brewer and ask him questions about beer. After a year of pestering, I did a brew day with him and he directed me to a craft brewery down the road where I started out scrubbing floors, cleaning and filling kegs and eventually learning how to brew. Doing this in the North-West Pacific region really opened my eyes to the possibilities of craft beer. Since returning to Australia, Black Hops has really nurtured my passion, skills, and knowledge, and working with Toshi has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Doing the TAFE course with Hendo and Kate was also invaluable.

As a Black Hops Brewer, what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job? And what would be the most challenging aspect?

The hands-on nature of the work at Black Hops and the team I have around me are two things that I find really enjoyable. The biggest challenge is probably being patient and being able to wait because the beer will only be ready when it is ready. Having said that, being able to enjoy the fruits of your labour makes it all worthwhile.

What’s your favourite Black Hops beer (core & non core range)?

Out of the core range, East Coast Haze but I also love a good Hornet.
Non-core: Ichibaaan Number One!

If you could offer a key piece of advice for someone looking to break into the craft beer industry as a brewer, what would it be?

Get your foot in the door. Whether you start out pouring beers, doing deliveries or cleaning the floors, if beer is something you are passionate about, the people around you will see it and will always offer help and advice.

Mick Guy: Head Brewer (Brisbane)

What is your background in the brewing industry prior to working at Black Hops?

I started Semi-Pro Brewing in 2015 with two friends (Dan and Lachie) as small batch gypsy brewers. In 2016, with my then wife Siena we turned the company into a Fully-Pro operation running larger batches through 4 Hearts in Ipswich. We opened the current East Brisbane location in early 2018.

As a Black Hops Brewer, what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job? And what would be the most challenging aspect?

The most enjoyable part is to work with new ingredients and techniques and see the results as the beer ferments and matures. I thoroughly enjoy the whole brewing process and seeing a new beer develop from concept to can is great.

The most challenging aspect is managing the logical side of a brewery. Working as a one man operation in Brisbane means I need to plan ahead and map out schedules to make sure everything is done to a high standard.

What’s your favourite Black Hops beer (core & non core range)?

Favourite core range bee would be Lay Day. A solid Lager with something to hide. My favorite non core range at the moment would be our Oktoberfest Alt Bier. A very enjoyable homage to the history of German brewing and Düsseldorf.

If you could offer a key piece of advice for someone looking to break into the craft beer industry as a brewer, what would it be?

Spend time in the industry at lots of different events and breweries and ask lots of questions. Be curious for technical knowledge and read about the history of beer and how it should be made. Join BABBS in Brisbane or a local brew club and brew some beers you are passionate about. Work out what it is you are passionate about and work on honing that. Ohh and be prepared for a life of cleaning.

As always, if you have any feedback or questions feel free to ask in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “How Do I Get A Job In Craft Beer Brewing?”

  1. After working 10 years in government I am currently applying to do the Cert 3 in brewing at tafe QLD. Would you recommend this a one of the better entry points to the trade currently?

  2. 100%, we have 2 staff currently going through it and others who have already done it and are now working with us.

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