Is A Career In Brewing Right For Me?
Ever since I brewed my first batch of homebrew I've always thought I'd love to make a career of it. Back in the late 90's I used to make a lot of homebrew and loved the brewing process almost as much as the finished product. Unfortunately, I haven't made much in the last 7 years after having to move for my job. I'm just now starting to get back into it.
Sometime next year I'll be getting laid off from my job as an electrical engineer and I'm really feeling burned out about the whole profession. I know that I am going to take a long break from engineering and my wife has actually caved in to my ramblings about becoming a professional brewer and now just wants me to figure out what I want to do and shutup.
Is there any practical way to discover whether I have what it takes to make it work or not get bored with it after a year or two? I used to joke to friends that I would one day get a diploma from the Siebel Institute and once I get the boot from my current job I could actually do it next year. I live in Chicago and would use some of my severance package to pay for it. Would this be a stupid thing to do before having any experience in the industry? Is the Siebel Institute still a respected program or are others "better" (I don't want to get a four year degree from a university)?
What kind of position could I expect to get with only homebrewing experience? While I'm not looking to get rich I do need to know rough salaries for the various positions (assistant brewer, head brewer, etc.) to make sure I could actually afford to eat, but I've been unable to find much information.
Sorry to ask so many questions.
Siebel is a great school, always has been. That being said it is a tough choice. I was told by someone who is an multiple award winning brewmaster and siebel graduate (I won't name him openly in this conversation because of it's nature) when I asked him if I should go, "No just get a job and brew" Which is actually the way I had already done it.
Make friends with a brewer and offer a few shifts of free labor, see the whole process and get a feel for it. Getting an assistant's job is a good leg up and you get paid, you can gain knowledge and hopefully parlay that into a better position. The schooling is great too, I know of no one who has complained to me about their experience. Maybe a good compromise would be to do the 2 week course and get that little bit of knowledge and use it to get the assistant job.. you can always then do the online course AS you are working in the assistant position! Best of both worlds right? My 2 cents...
Go out and set up an assistant position first. Then worry about the course work. Hands on experience is what all owners want. Most don't even look at you if you don't have three or four years in the industry. So, my advice is work as cheap help to a head brewer near your home and learn from him. Then polish your craft later if you choose to stay in the industry. Remember, homebrewing was a hobby, and brewing for a career can be a messy sweaty, job.
305 and I are on the same page. He was just more concise. While I would never discourage anyone from going to school, it's the real world experience that counts... No more so anywhere than in the brewing industry.
That's kind of what I figured. I wondered how much education and classes offset or made up for hands on experience, i.e. if someone has all the training and degrees, etc. do they still start out as assistant brewer or do they jump right into head brewer or do they just climb the ladder faster.
I'm in total agreement with 305 and Bham. I did the same thing you're thinking of, and went around to all the local micros applying for an assistant brewer position. Don't wait for an ad. It worked out for me. It's a lot easier to get the asst. brewer position then to get a head brewer gig, unless you're already in the biz for awhile. Then you'll know everyone and hear about openings quicker! Best of luck on your quest.