View Full Version : Looking to be an intern in a couple years, what should I do now?

David Hicks
12-10-2009, 08:01 AM
Im a 19 year old freshman at the University of South Carolina Honors College looking to get into the beer industry after I graduate. Currently I am prepping a field to receive 160 hop rhizomes in the spring in connection with a senior thesis project I have planned. I hope to plant these hops and about a quarter acre of barley, malt my own barley, and find a microbrewery who will allow me to and assist me in making a beer completely from ingredients grown and processed by me, on my farm.

I would really love input on how to go about approaching breweries about my project.

Also, I would love to get an internship or job at a brewery right after I graduate. Is there anything I can do now to make myself a more attractive candidate, considering that it will be illegal for me to actually work in a brewery until I am 21 (junior year) in South Carolina? My major is business. I might pick up a minor in either chemistry or biology. I am also considering finding a chemistry teacher to do an independent study under where I basically do a self-paced course in brewing (buy the text book and go through the work, with the teacher evaluating my project)

Sadly transferring to a school that has a brewing program is not really an option as I am tied to my hop farm until at least senior year.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

12-10-2009, 08:38 AM
Read everything you can. Homebrew if you choose. You need not be 21 to work in a brewery in CA, perhaps not where you are either. Take basic chemistry. Take basic microbiology. Taste beers and learn the difference ("don't swallow" until you are 21). Go talk to local breweries of good reputation about your hop project.
Learn how and why to clean things. Not only is this critical to making good beer, but I guarantee you it will get you a brewery job.
That will set you up just fine. You will get out of your homework just what you put into it.

David Hicks
12-10-2009, 09:13 AM
Hey, thanks for the reply.

I have checked the laws, and you do have to be 21 to work in a brewery in SC. I already homebrew... I mean, my friend Dan homebrews and I just help him out.:rolleyes: And I already have a pretty sizable (edit: for my age*) amount of knowledge about beer styles, tasting, detecting faults, and all of that stuff. Luckily it is perfectly legal for me to drink beer if I am at home and my parents consent to it, which has allowed me to taste hundreds of beers over the last couple of years.

I am considering getting Cicerone Certified (I know that correlates better with bars than with breweries) and BJCP judge certified, but I'm not sure if the benefits would be worth the expense and time.

12-10-2009, 09:34 AM
At your stage, I would say the BJCP is definitely worth the time. I am a Master judge, and it has made me a better brewer. Brewing has also made me a better judge.
I am not intimately familiar with the Cicerone Program, but I know Daniel and have great confidence that he has put together a good one.

12-10-2009, 01:51 PM
A few thoughts

Try to pick up a course or two in engineering (in addition to Chem, microbiology, biophysics would be good too). Develop your understanding of the mechanics of brewing (pumps, refrigeration, boilers, compressors etc.)

Start reading brewing journals and textbooks if you have not. There are various threads herein with great suggestions. Learn to understand them.

Get in contact with local brewing org chapters like MBAA. Join them. Attend some conferences. Network. Pitch all of your local brewers on your project. Just for the experience. If you were in my neighbourhood, I'd tell you to drop by for a chinwag.

Develop your friend Dan's homebrewing set-up as far as you can. Keep great notes. Try making beers you've never heard of but think might be kind of funky (in a good way).

The BJCP thing is debatable. While the resultant judges tend to be well trained/experienced tasters, I have usually resisted narrow definition of style. Some things can't be put in a box and labelled. I really can't see, personally, how this program would make me a better brewer.

That could just be me and the contentious sort of bloke I am.

Best of luck,



12-11-2009, 08:53 AM
I love reading this post -- it reminded me of myself back in the days... although I don't have the agriculture background.

You don't need to go to a brewing program, although I will definitely recommend that down the road.

Take basic science courses (100 level): Biology, Physics, and Chemistry (and basic level of Math, of course)
Basic engineering: Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering (I personally have none, but it really helps)

Definitely take Microbiology -- the lab experience will help you!
Recommended to take Organic Chemistry, and even Biochemistry, but this is not crucial. (we need background understanding, we don't need to dig that far!)

And one more, Sensory Evaluation! If your school has a Food Science program, there should be a Sensory course there. While you are there, take a few Food Science courses! It's fun! (I also started homebrewing when I was 18... my professors all frowned at me, but hey, it's legal to buy those ingredients!)

And I second Liam on the BJCP thing... do learn the arts and history of brewing (aka, READ, DRINK, TRAVEL, and TALK to other brewers -- that's the artistic process!) But as a brewer, I don't give a crap of styles or judges. Brew good beer (which come from your science and engineering understanding)! Create your own style (learning from the previous good beers)! and most importantly, Define your own art!

Good luck!

PS. as for the Cicerone Program... nothing against Ray, but I don't think it's aimed for pro brewers. I am sure you will learn lots about beer in that course, but you really need more -- again, like I said above, READ (particularly the Classic Beer Style Series), DRINK, TRAVEL, and TALK to other brewers! it's more fun that way anyways!