Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I want to work in the craft beer industry

Theres always a little debate going on with me and my fellow classmates here in the MSc program here sometimes. On one side, I hear a lot of advice telling me that I should try to get a job with a large brewery like Labatt back home. On the other side, I hear a lot of advice telling me I should stick to my desires to work for a small craft brewery or in the small craft industry in some way. I think I have this worked out myself, and here are my thoughts:

Working for a large brewery has some certain advantages. Mostly financial, as they would be able to afford to pay me a pretty good salary plus benefits. Second, they usually have pretty good training programs so I would learn a lot. Third, theres usually a bit of security and upward mobility possible. But this all comes at a cost... I wouldn't be able to take pride in the product I produce. Not just because I don't generally enjoy macro-style lagers, but also because I'd be playing such a small part in the overall production. In addition, I've worked for larger companies in the past and I was never really all that happy with how I felt working at such places -- not because they treated people badly at all, just because there was this impending air of everything being somebody else's job.

vs David
Working for the small craft brewery works for me, then, almost just because they are not big. If there is a problem I can talk directly to the boss. My boss wouldn't have a boss with a boss with another boss who reports to the CEO. I don't want to be a small cog in a big system. I want to take pride in the product I literally make myself. I don't just want to "do my job" then go home, collect my pay cheque, and wait for somebody else to make all the big decisions. I want to have the opportunity to makes things better. I want to be brewing one day, filtering the next, and helping sales another day. I don't want to look at a computer screen all day analysing extract efficiency.

Some pegs just don't fit...
I think it takes a certain personality to work for a small company in general. You have to be somebody who can work as a very flexible part of a team. Somebody who really believes in the product being produced. Somebody who believes that getting a decent pay cheque isn't enough to be satisfied with your job. Somebody who wants to feel special by being part of something unique. Somebody who likes the excitement of the risk involved. That kind of thing isn't for everybody, and that's fine. But I think its for me.

So, where am I going to work?
I've started browsing around for possible jobs. My only real problem is that I want to stay in Edmonton, Alberta to be with my girlfriend (plus I still own a condo there). That does tend to limit my possibilities quite a bit, but there are three craft breweries (one I used to work at), one defunct craft brewery with equipment getting dusty, and a brew pub. I'm not back until almost 6 months from now, which is a long time for a small brewery to wait for me. Hopefully somebody needs me around October though!

And if I don't get a job?
I've been considering other possible career options too... If I can sell myself as a brewery consultant to small breweries that would be great, as I could live in Edmonton but travel around to clients. There are lots of very small craft breweries and start ups that don't have the proper technical knowledge to efficiently produce and distribute beer (or even create decent tasting beer in some cases). There is a big difference from making beer on your stove at home and making it for profit even in a small brewery. While I only have a year and a half experience working at a craft brewery, my MSc in Brewing should go quite a long way in convincing people that I know what I'm talking about. This is an industry, however, that puts a lot of weight in solid experience it seems (and for good reason, honestly). So I'm a little cautious as I wouldn't want to over sell myself.

Opening a brewery?
So, if anybody just happens to be opening a brewery and needs an experienced, educated, technical brewer to help start it up, give me an email ;)
Hell, I might even be able to drum up some investment capital...



Lise B said...

Dude.. open your own brewery! :-)

Peter said...

^ your own brewery is the way to go duders

and I'll be your marketing guy!

headlessbob said...

My own brewery is an idea... but its a very big decision. When you own your own brewery I honestly think that you are a small business first, and a brewery second. There are a lot of hard decisions that have to be made all the time as a business man and unfortunately sometimes less as a brewer.

I think there is a lot of romanticism about owning your own small brewery -- it can be great if things go well, but at the same time you have to be prepared for so much unexpected stuff, even complete failure.

However, at the same time I think thats why I'm a good candidate for starting my own brewery or being part of a new start-up. I'm aware that its not all green pastures and blue skies... its hard work. And knowing what you're doing makes a big difference. I do know what I'm doing on the technical side. Hell, I can even do the internal business stuff if I had to (I like numbers and math!)... but I need a partner, somebody who is good with the external stuff, who can do the people things. I think thats where I lack ability.

Anyway, perhaps I should make this reply a post in itself :)