Beer and Wine: The Great Divide
After having followed the pay rate discussion I began to wonder how employees of similar industries where doing. I found that winemakers and assistant winemakers were making, on average twice as much as brewers and assistant brewers. Now I don't know if those positions are exactly equivalent, but from what I've seen of local breweries and vineyards, they seem to be pretty close. Not really having the other figures of the two industries to compare (at least not yet), I'm proposing that employee salaries represent a decent indicator of the health and success of an industry. So why the big difference between beer and wine? Why are winemakers living more comfortably and successfully (overall) than brewers?
Is it just an image thing? Has wine cornered and conquered the "sophisticated" market, where more potential income resides, with its claims to being the highest of palatable pleasures? Can it be toppled or can beer be raised to its level? Beer offers a range of flavor and character equal to, if not greater in depth than that of wine. Yet when you look at what's generally available in beer selection, it's usually unispired. Bud/Miller, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Heiniken, Corona are what come to mind when I think of what I find at most restuarants. Winelists are generally a little longer and more varied in the depth. When I go to a "fancier" restuarant (where more money is involved) the depth and quality of wines offered goes up, but the beer stays about the same. The good stuff needs to get out there, people will be surprised, fall for it, drink it, and spend their money on it.
Is it a quality thing? One of the posters in pay roll mentioned that "brew-pub" quality is lacking due to lack of experience and low brewer retention which is caused by inability to make a "decent" wage. He wasn't the first person I've heard point out this lack of quality. I was talking to a restuarnt owner in Virginia about why he didn't carry any local brews and he told me that the quality of the brews offered to him by local breweries had generally been poor and therefore not worth the cost. I'm guessing the people brewing the beer just weren't good. So wouldn't the initially cost of investment into developing a solid brewmaster be more than offset by the income you'd make down the road selling a quality product to restuarants and consumers? Why arn't people doing this? Have they started and I just don't know about it?
I may be lossing my train here, so let me reitterate. There is a lot of good beer that America in general has not been exposed to. Americans have a lot of money to spend, even in a sluggish economy. They will more than happily spend that money on a high quality, well marketed product. Beer has the potential be this product, why hasn't it reached its potential? How do we get it there so we can do what we love(make beer) and make a decent salary (ie more than working behind the counter a McDonalds). Am I way off the mark here?
re: Vs wine
It could be that one reason for the wine workers higher pay cheque is the retail price of wine is much higher per litre than beer. Maybe we should be sellling our beer not in kegs but in 750ml bottles. The reteraunters would then be able to sell it as another snobbish product to thier snobbish customers. gee does that sound bitter???
Jokes aside, we need to make sure the beer we produce is top quality and without serving problems( leaky kegs, over carbonated, ect ect..) for the resteraunters to upsell our beer therefore increasing our paycheques.
I think that there are at least two reasons why vinters make more money than brewers. The first is that small brewers are compeating with economy of scale. Beer prices only range from $4.00 to around $12 a six pack and of that price, a couple of dollars is tied up in packaging. Wine for all practical purposes has a price range of $3 to about $80 or $90. ( I realize that it goes higher than this, but Im talking about the majority of wine). The wider range gives the opportunity to balance a whole portfolio of products at different prices and profit margins. In brewing you need one hell of a good product (or at least the perception of one) to charge more than $8 a six pack. The second reason is the education of the employees. As well as a diploma from Siebel, I have a degree in food science which is quite common in the wine industry. If a winery is looking to hire a food scientist for a position in QA or operations, they are competing with potato chip manufacturers, ice cream manufacturers etc. This drives the overall wage up. In brewing, most owners are looking for someone with some experience and a diploma or certificate of which, (I don't mean this in a negative way) there are literally thousands of qualified people. In addition, since I stopped working in the Brewing industry, I have not had one person come and offer to help me do my job for free, which was a frequent occurance in the brewing industry. Although, I loved working in the brewing industry, there is no way I could make the kind of money I wanted to and so I had to go outside of it.
Brewer's / Vinter's wage
Beside the simple differances of product/production/costs,... beer, is a different animal in relation to recepitability/presentation.
9 out of 10 Americans wouldn't know a well made beer from a warm bucket of yak pee. There-in lies the low bar.
A carefully crafted beer, made with the finest barley and hops...barely raises an eyebrow, while a grossely defective brew wins a gold medal at the GABF. Go figure..(I did).
Being a "passionate" brewer is like playing a kazoo in an symphony. Nobody really cares how good or experianced you are,...the audiance is mostly def anyway.
The "Brew-pub" scene, is ....a resturant industry...the bottom line is everything...and a brewer is only worth as much as the GM rationalizes....and if he could, he'd replace you with the dishwasher.