Once again we return to our So You Want My Job series, in which we interview men who are employed in desirable jobs and ask them about the reality of their work and for advice on how men can live their dream.
Beer. Many men enjoy it as a tasty beverage. But have you ever considered making a career out of your love for beer? Well, you can do just that by becoming a brewmaster. But as Martin Simion, Master Brewer of Austria’s 1516 Brewing Company, tells us, the job takes more than a passing affinity for beer. A brewmaster needs a real dedication to the craft.
1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? How old are you? Describe your job and how long you’ve been at it, etc.).
My name is Martin Simion. I am from Linz, Austria, and I’m 32 years old. I studied brewing and beverage technology at Weihenstephan in Germany and graduated as a Master Brewer in 2005.
After working in a microbrewery in West Sussex and as an engineer for brewery start-ups, I am now brewing at 1516 Brewing Company in Vienna, one of the most innovative microbreweries in Austria.
2. Why did you want to become a brewer? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I was always fascinated by the craftsmanship, love, and pride that brewers and winemakers put into their product but didn’t like the cocky approach of the wine people.
Furthermore, I was always interested in natural science and engineering and found that brewing is a fascinating combination of the two subjects. In addition to that, beer is probably the oldest manmade beverage (possibly dating back to 9500 BC), and is brewed today with the latest technology available.
Do I have to mention that I always like to have a good glass of beer? I have to admit though that I am more into quality than quantity.
3. How does a man become a brewer? Is it something you can go to school for? Do you apprentice with someone?
There are a lot of possibilities: from training on the job, apprenticeships to a university degree in brewing from Weihenstephan (Bavaria/Germany), International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburg, Scotland, or the Siebel Institute of Technology (Chicago) and many more.
4. What kinds of job opportunities are out there for professional brewers?
There are loads of different jobs available in the brewing industry: from a tiny pub/brewery to the biggest industrial brewery, from a start as assistant brewer all the way up to the head brewer or production manager.
Small breweries offer the chance to oversee the whole production process from the selection of raw materials to the finished beer and often have a wider range of products, making the whole job more interesting.
There is even the possibility to open your own microbrewery or brewpub; you just need a generous investor or a gifted welder…
5. How hard is it to land a paying job as a beer brewer? What separates a candidate from the others when he’s applying for a job?
It is hard to give a general answer to this one but (international) experience, a degree in brewing and a bit of enthusiasm will help. European breweries are totally into degrees, while a gifted, award-winning backyard brewer can make his way all the way up to the head brewer in the US. I personally believe that a good mix will open many doors.
6. What is the best part of your job?
I enjoy the creativity I can put into our beers and the countless possibilities, from interpreting existing styles to creating new exciting ones. There are about 30 different malt types from pale pilsner malt to almost black roasted barley and more than 100 hop varieties from around the world (ever heard of Athanum, Nelson Sauvin or Styrian Goldings?) Different yeast strains for every thinkable beer style: a bottom-fermenting lager yeast, a fruity Bavarian wheat beer yeast or a stout yeast for a smooth, heartwarming classic ale.
And: How many people do you know who still MAKE something with their own hands?
7. What is the worst part of your job?
No such thing. Some might see the needed geographical flexibility as a burden.
8. What’s the work/family/life balance like?
Depending on the brewery and the position there will be early, night, or weekend shifts; furthermore, most breweries have some kind of high and low season so you can end up being overworked AND bored in one place! Also, be prepared to move for your job—the best jobs are never around the corner.
9. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
Brewers are not necessarily drinkers; most brewers I know would rather have one glass of a good craft beer than five of the cheap stuff.
10. Any other advice, tips, commentary, or anecdotes you’d like to share?
If you like the idea of brewing your own beer, buy a book and start homebrewing in your kitchen. If you are interested in a career in brewing, visit a nearby brewery, talk to the brewer, and try to find out as much as possible. If that doesn’t stop you, apply for an internship at a small brewery. Small means you will learn everything from scratch. Be prepared to lift heavy loads and to work in a cold/hot and wet environment!
I personally believe that local breweries can and should contribute to the local community. For example, New Belgium Brewing, a rather big microbrewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, gives a free bicycle to every employee after one year of working for the brewery and encourages them to use it on their way to work every day!
Support small brewers:
Please keep in mind that smaller breweries usually have higher production costs than their bigger counterparts and therefore have to be more expensive. So please try to support the small ones. Enjoy one quality pint instead of three glasses of the fizzy stuff coming from the beer factory.
Finally, a guideline that I find very helpful when working on complex tasks:
When you start something, finish it!