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Thread: Starting Out Early...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Colchester, VT, USA

    Question Starting Out Early...

    I am pretty convinced it is my destiny to own a brewery at some point in my life. Unfortunately, I am a youngin. I have read questions as to how to get started in the beer business without any experience and i have the same inqueries, except a little more complicated. I am currently a sophomore in college, aiming to get my bach. in business admin/marketing/management. I have the will, drive, passion, etc to start my own business and make a lot out of nothing. The problem is where to start. I know i need to work from the bottom up, which usually means the bottling line and possibly shipment (mind you, no experience). However, as i will be coming out of college i need a decent to well-paying job to pay off some intense college loans. This is also the reason why, for now, i cannot really afford, time or money-wise, to go to a brew school after i graduate. My question is this: since i cant picture myself working with anything else other than the art of crafting brews, where can i start where i would make a decent salary? What is the average bottling line salary? (figures help) If I dont start out in a brewery, where else would be a good place to start and gain necessary skills? Any help is much appretiated and i am looking early because of too many aspirations and loans.

    Thanks and cheers

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    san diego, ca.
    well in all honesty, find a smaller business and aim for assistant brewer. It is almost guarenteed to be a learning position with training provided. I started as an assistant with no more than a basic homebrewer back round and a will to learn about making a quality consistant product. I started at $9/hr in Iowa. you might make less at first but I would imagine this to be a regular wage for the most part. The hours on the other might just have part time hours. But thats the price to pay to lean as you know already being a student.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Redmond (Seattle), Wa
    You sound like me about 8 years ago! I received the same degree you are working on right now and find it very valuable in the brewing business. You will find that some people never realize that it actually is a business and subject to the same basic rules of business. So first of all, you will be well grounded in that regard. After finishing my degree, I took that, my 8 years of process control/QA experience, and some years of homebrewing experience to Seattle in search of a way in. After about 9 months of nagging, I was hired on at a local micro. Shift brewed there for 2.5 years or so. Moved over to a small brewpub for another 1.5 and then last year into a headbrewer slot at a large brewpub.

    That being said, I learned a great deal in the smaller brewpub environment. You have your hands in so much more and are more free to experiment. At this point, I decided to take the ABG course to round out my hands on skills with more process/science knowledge. I did not need this course to get a job or advance but found it made me a better brewer and suspect will make the door open a bit wider down the road. As for taking it before working? I was going to do that when I graduated but the sickly debt from school made me say "enough debt for now". I recommend that course but be aware that you will only get out of it what you put into it!

    I found that the hardest part after graduating and starting in the beer business was the pitiful wages. You look around and your buddies from school are taking those 40k starting wages in "real jobs" and you are busting your back for 20k. This almost made me give it up because being broke sucks! Luckily I increased my salary with time, experience, and some moving around.
    Oh yeah, and the magic word with student loans after you get done and can't pay it back yet 'cause you make 9 bucks/hour...."forbearance"!

    I guess you just gotta get in the door and go from there. Start washing kegs for someone, work one day a week if that is what it takes to get in. Get a feel for the business, not just the "glamour" of brewing and see if you think it is worth giving up living wages for a while or worth pursuing coursework. Ask yourself some hard questions, what your priorities are in life.

    Anyway, thats my thoughts for this evening...

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    London, United Kingdom

    being 2nd year in university, does that mean you are not quite old enough for a job in a brewery in the US? or can you work, but not drink? (i am assuming you are 20 or something like that)

    my strategy would be to read books, homebrew, crack on with a part-time job at a local brewery whilst studying and clean kegs, package, whatever you can do to get in. maybe come from the business/marketing side and try and do tastings, sales, admin etc for the brewery in question. at least you would have gotten, say, 2yrs of some sort of experience before you try and wedge your way in.

    cheers and good luck,


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Another option( which is what I would do if I was in your situation) which would seem to make a lot of sense with a lot less risk would be to get a job in the business world when you graduate and make as much money as you can. It seem logical that with your degree you could make TWICE the salary right out of college than you would make in the brewing industry. Afterall you're going to need some money to get yourself started and/or get rid of those student loans would also be helpful.

    Starting now, get your hands on anything and everything written about the world of beer,learn, learn,learn. Start homebrewing as soon as you can. Talk to anyone and everyone related to the world of brewing/beer, you can learn something from everyone whether they be a homebrewer,accomplished professional,delivery driver for a local distributor even the bartender at your local pub. Think beer,talk beer, be the beer, be passionate and people will take notice.

    Once you've graduated and are working "in the real world" then start thinking about taking a an online brewing course like ABG, as you can do this while you keep your job and bring home the bread. Stay involved with the industry no matter what, whether it be volunteering at a local brewery a day a week, for festivals or whatever. Seek out and try as many different beers as you can, a part time job in a good beer bar/store would make them very accessible as well as economical for someone straightening out their finances.

    Remember you're still very young, I personally don't know anyone who started their own brewery before the age of 30. If this is what you want to be doing the rest of your life( and time will only tell on that one) then you're in it for the long haul, so jumping into the business ASAP shouldn't be a goal. A business that fails to plan should plan to fail. Research every little thing down to the penny, figure out what you need for capital,then of course double or triple it!

    Mike Roy
    Franklins Restaurant, Brewery & General Store
    5123 Baltimore Ave
    Hyattsville,MD 20781

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Newport, KY, United States
    I got in the door bartending. It was enough to stave off the costs of school life beyond the student loans. After I decided that architecture wasn't for me, I found that it opened the door when I got a job at a brewpub.
    I paid as much attention to what the brewers were doing as I could, and shared a few beers with them whenever I could, and when they decided that they could use a little extra help I got the job.
    When you start in a brewery, the hours are inconsistent and the pay isn't great either. Bartending pays the bills and keeps me right next to the brewers so I can keep learning when the hours aren't there. I have also gotten a position with a brewery design company to help me learn the business and technical side of the industry, but that was just luck.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Colchester, VT, USA

    Wow Thanks...seriously

    Thanks to all of you who replied, i really got a good look at the beer business and what it entails. To answer some of you questions, yes, i am only 20, so technically its illegal to create alcohol. However, that doesnt mean i havent done it! I love to homebrew and create new and unique flavors. I recently had a good amount of my equipment stolen from me so im kind-of holding off (for now) with creating many batches.

    Once 21, i plan on looking into bottling lines/distribution/packaging for local micros such as magic hat, otter creek, rock art. This will help me get my foot in the door, however with only minimal wage. I now realize it is true the micro industry isnt full blown (yet) where people can come out of college and make 50k a year. I would like to aid in the movement to a better beer industry with more opportunities and less cheap beer (me being super-optimistic).

    Since this will not happen overnight, post graduation, i plan on taking the advice of incredibrewmike and look for a high paying job, pay off some loans, then get back in the beer game. I have thought about bartending a good amount and im glad a few of you found it successful in getting good pay as well as getting close to the industry. Thanks, ill look into that.

    As for now, im working on saving my pennies, studying every aspect of beer (and business), and continuing to homebrew. Thanks again for the help.

    p.s.- mike roy, i may be looking for a job in the near future, i love the manchester, nh area.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006



    My friend and I are in your shoes. Just finnishing up our 3rd of 4 years in University and plan to work aftwards to pay off loans and some initial capital before we take a swing into the business. We're just as passionate as you are. I'm 21, my friend is 20, we live in Canada so it's legal at 19. We've been homebrewing for the last year and it's seriously changed our lives and focus. Right now we're going to be applying for a small business grant of $3000 from the Government over the summer holidays to hopefully expand our operation capital. It'll be interesting.

    Anyways, good luck man. Hopefully one day we will be competing against eachother.

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