How to Become a Brewer's Apprentice
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If you love beer, then working at a brewery can seem like a great way to combine a passion with a vocation. Getting a job in a brewery, though, isn't all that easy. One way to get noticed is to become a frequent patron at your favorite brewery's tap room, get on friendly terms with the staff, and let them know you'd be interested in a job if one opens up. Another way to increase your chances of getting a job is to take a brewer's apprenticeship course. Bear in mind that working in a brewery isn't all about sipping the rewards; it's a physically demanding and often low-paying career environment.
Research apprenticeship programs, which are held at trade schools as well as universities, to find their requirements. Some schools accept applicants who have no prior experience or education, while others prefer those who have at least taken college courses in subjects such as math, chemistry, physics or engineering. While you're at it, read whatever you can get your hands on about brewing, and try your hand at home brewing. Learning as much as you can beforehand can only help you.
Decide how deeply you want to dig into learning about brewing beer. Apprenticeships on brewing beer can be as superficial as teaching you how to brew better beer at home or as in-depth as teaching you how to perform a professional lab analysis on your beer. Programs can be short courses that take anywhere from several days to a semester to complete, or full-blown courses that can take up to four years to finish. What you choose depends on the time and money you have to invest, and where you expect to end up. Short courses may be better for the beginner just trying to get noticed, while the intense courses may be better for current employees who want to be promoted to brewmaster.
Get your resources lined up. Attending a brewing apprenticeship can cost quite a bit of money, and it isn't a learning course that's eligible for federal financial aid. Price depends on the school, the duration of the program, and how intensive the program is. In 2011, tuition fees ranged from $3,600 for a small class to upwards of $30,000 with the inclusion of living expenses, according to "Brew Your Own." Balance these numbers against your prospects in the industry. Starting positions involve a lot of cleaning and grunt work, and generally pay minimum wage, with a couple of free beers thrown in.
Choose your class and apply. There are several American schools for brewmaster apprenticeship, including the Siebel Institute in Chicago; the American Brewer's Guild in Salisbury, Vermont; and Oregon State University. Some classes involve taking a trip to a brewery -- in some cases out of the country -- to give you real-life experience. There are also Internet courses for those who want to stay closer to home.
Be choosy about the school. Some courses are heavy in coursework and light in on-hands brewing, while others are just the opposite.
There are breweries that offer half-day courses in brewing beer. This might be a way for you to get a taste of being a brewmaster before you commit to an apprenticeship.
Some brewing schools are booked for a year or longer. Take this into account when beginning your journey.
- Brew Your Own: Brew U: Getting a Serious Brewing Education
- American Brewers Guild: Craftbrewer's Apprenticeship
- Beer Legends: Brewing School
- Brigadoon Brewery: Brewmaster for a Day
- Job Shadow: Interview with a Brewmaster
- Dig Boston: On Beer and Brewing: So You Want to be a Brewer, Eh?
- I Think About Beer: Q & Ale: How do You Get a Job in the Beer Industry, Part Two: Brewery
Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."
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