So You Wanna Go Pro? Tips for Entering the Craft Beer Biz

Homebrewer Gone ProExperience is key. Network, volunteer, get some education. Take biz classes too. Check out Sam Adams program. Get financed.
It’s not uncommon for home brewers to dream of taking their passion to the next level. Just look at these four homebrewers who went pro.
But making the jump from a home brewer to a professional brewer is no easy task. If you want to start working in the craft beer industry, you’ll need to get your foot in the door and gain some experience. Here are just a few tips for making the leap.

  1. Network – You’re much more likely to hear about that golden opportunity from someone you know than from an online job board. Plus, being in the know automatically sets you apart from droves of other competitors searching the online ads. Get out to every beer event in your town and start meeting people. You may be surprised how a relationship you build today can turn into an opportunity one, two, or several years down the road.
  2. Volunteer – If you don’t have any brewery experience, your best shot may be to volunteer or intern at your local brewery. Give your local brewery a call during business hours and ask about opportunities. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter. Also watch the ProBrewer classifieds for entry-level jobs and internships (but don’t forget about #1 above!).
  3. Get educated – If you’re starting out with little to no brewery experience, taking some classes will help put you on the right track and demonstrate your level of commitment to the craft beer career path. More and more local and community colleges are adding fermentation sciences classes. Are there any near you? The classic brewing programs like Siebel, UC Davis, and Doemens fill up fast, so go ahead and get booked. To expand on the topic of education, don’t forget about other courses that might be beneficial. In addition to brewers and cellar people, breweries need marketers, graphic designers, accountants, sales people, sustainability managers, IT technicians, and HR specialists. Making yourself valuable in these other areas may be your ticket into your dream job.
  4. Want to start your own brewery? Don’t quit your day job. – If your dream is to open your own brewery, get ready for some serious work. Plan on a year or two, maybe even longer, of business planning before you can start your own company. Check out the Siebel Start Your Own Brewery Course. You’ll learn that there’s a lot more that goes into running a brewery than making the beer. Once your business plan is put together, you’ll have to get financed. Consider the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program. Any way you cut it, make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you leave your regular job and take the dive into entrepreneurship.

Jumping into the craft beer business is something that a lot of people dream of, but don’t think that it’s all about drinking beer. If you’re serious about working in the beer business, buckle down, study up, and start working relentlessly towards those opportunities.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.