So You Want My Job: Brewmaster

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 24, 2011 · 31 comments

in So You Want My Job

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?

Career:

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!

Brewing locally:

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!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 greyD June 24, 2011 at 2:06 am

Yes, I do want your job.

2 Philip G. June 24, 2011 at 2:20 am

Is that a picture of Mr. Simion or just a stock image?

3 Marshall June 24, 2011 at 2:30 am

So glad to see more beer-related articles on this site! Great information here, and it should be added that the United States is currently in the beginnings of a true Beer Renaissance! Even if you DON’T want to make a career out of it, I would encourage everyone to give homebrewing a shot– it’s a fantastic creative outlet, easy to get into, and cost-effective to boot (unless you’re making a Budweiser clone) and if you spend a few minutes looking around, you’ll most likely find that you’re close to a local Brewing Club!

4 Mike June 24, 2011 at 5:52 am

I’d be curious to hear what this gentleman, or anyone else, thinks about the way craft beer is marketed in US these days. In Europe most of the beer I came across was marketed tastefully, invoking images of traditional breweries and beverages for a mature customer of distinguished taste. In America it seems that a lot of companies don’t market with that same pride, but prefer to put on more Bohemian and hipster images… While their beers taste just as good, the presentation is real turn off for me. I’d like to at least think they’re wearing shoes when they’re brewing.

5 Vinson June 24, 2011 at 7:55 am

Herr Simion, Vielen Dank fuer diesen post! I must say that as an American living in Austria I am astounded by your beer. I was able to go to 1516 in December and I was blown away by homemade brew. Also, the burgers you guys have at 1516 are the best in Austria. Thanks and keep up the good work!

6 Tryclyde June 24, 2011 at 7:58 am

@Mike

I think ANY marketing for craft beer is good marketing. How often do you even see any for craft/microbrew beer? I never see any commercials for any of the craft beers that I prefer (Sam Adams has alot of them but they’re not really a small brewery anymore). Luckily, these types of beers are really gaining steam in the U.S., and that’ll hopefully help relinquish the hold that the Big 3 have on beer sales in America.

7 Jack June 24, 2011 at 7:58 am

I agree completely with Marshall. I got into beer about two years ago, and have found it to be one of the most enjoyable hobbies I’ve ever had. I’m not just talking about homebrewing, although that is a blast–a great chance to be creative and make something with your hands, and cracking your first homemade beer and realizing that you actually MADE BEER is awesome. But also trying new beers, learning what you actually like, instead of what you’ve been told you SHOULD like as a red-blooded American man, discovering the subtleties of the various styles and what makes them taste the way they do…it’s all fun. And, when you have a busy work schedule and a young child, it’s a hobby that doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s pretty cheap as far as hobbies go.

I would also add that many smaller breweries will actually let you brew on site. There was at least one in the DC area where you could go, pick through a ton of recipes, then brew your own large batch of beer using the brewery’s commercial facilities. Talk about a fun learning experience for you and your buddies, and you get to enjoy a few pitchers along the way.

8 Cory M June 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

Very cool to see this! I’m glad someone is representing the beer brewers! I started homebrewing when I was 18 while in college, became insanely passionate about anything with fermentation. I dropped out of college soon after, and once I turned 21, interned at a small brewery for a year. A year later, enrolled in the Siebel Institute (Listed above), and now I’m a brewer for a insanely growing microbrewery in Kansas!

Plans to open my own brewery or meadery will be in the coming future!

9 Mike June 24, 2011 at 8:38 am

@Tryclyde

My mistake, I didn’t quite make it clear what I meant. You’re right, I honestly can’t think of any advertising I’ve ever seen for craft beers, except for maybe in magazines, and even there I’m not sure.

What I meant is more the way that craft brewers present themselves in terms of brand, packaging, etc. Some seem to present their beer as though it is a lifestyle choice rather than a beverage. http://www.brewdog.com/ comes to mind as the most overboard example (Though admittedly a UK brewery). I personally find it very it very off putting to when my food and drink comes with a philosophy. Perhaps I’m the only one.

10 Westicles June 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

@ Mike…you raise a very interesting point. Last summer I worked on a marketing project for my master’s in which we came up with a plan for a local brewery (Yards in Philly).

You first need to look at what is going on in the industry. Post WWII, the beer industry went through a dark age that lasted ontil the 1980′s. People became very price sensitive to beer which resulted in rapid consolidation of beer companies. Macro breweries became dominant in the beer market and forced smaller breweries out of the market, arguably commiting genocide on recipe innovation. In the 1980′s, small brewers began to start brewing again, with rapid growth in th late 90′s to present. Although microbreweries have astronomical growth, they still have relatively low market power in the industry.

So what does this have to do with their marketing? People began realizing that there actually is good beer on the market and started buying from small/local breweries. It was a result of grassroots advertising and word of mouth. For example, the founder of Sam Adams was known to go bar to bar trying to promote his beer. First, many micro breweries cannot afford the traditional advertising of macrobreweries. Prime time ads with large-chested blondes cost more than a micro brewery can afford. Second, most microbreweries have different motives than macrobreweries. Microbreweries have a passion for beer and would rather make great products, than sell mass quantities. Third, microbreweries know their customers. Patrons of microbreweries are less price sensitve if value is offered.

In short, traditional advertising is a waste for microbrewers. They will waste money and fail to attract their customer base.

11 2buttonswag June 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

I’m thristy now.

I think what is interesting about these articles is that these jobs are never really hard to the people who have them. They love doing it. When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. For us it may sound like work, but for somebody with an undying passion for this, it’s just another step in a process. People may disagree, but I feel if you have a TRUE passion for something and a burning desire to succeed at it, nothing is hard.

12 Bike Bubba June 24, 2011 at 9:57 am

My great uncle trained as a brewmaster (he was an apprentice, not a master, I believe) before he fled Bavaria for England, then England for the United States, as World War One was threatening. Maybe I should take up homebrewing in honor of him.

And the best advertisement for microbrews is to put one in the hand of someone who is used to Bug Light. If there are any functioning taste buds left, you will have decreased market share for Anheuser-Busch right then and there.

13 JG June 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

Kind of ironic.. I came here today to send an email to Brett to see if he wanted to interview a brewer for the “So You Want My Job” series (Not me. A professional brewer). I never expected to see the article already written and at the top of the page.

I’m always glad to see the rising love of craft brews that seems to have been building over the past few years. I, like most people, never knew there was anything other than the American Macrobrews until about 5 years ago. Since then I have gradually gotten more and more into it and now I am a homebrewer. Best hobby I could have asked for. So many types of beer that most people don’t know exist and they are so much better than the macrobrews. Though, I will admit, the macrobrews have their place. There’s little better than a Busch Light after a long hot day of working outside.

14 JG June 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

Also, if anyone is interested in getting started homebrewing, visit homebrewtalk.com. Great site for beginners.

15 2buttonswag June 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

@ Westicles

Great points. I think it is really the same for anything though isn’t it? The purist music is put out by independent record labels. An artists freshman album is always the best because they have the most to say before getting famous. I agree with you 100%. I think there is a small period of time when you can feel and taste the passion put into something. Once the desire for more money takes over, people start focusing on quantity over quality. Forgetting what got them there in the first place.

16 PJB June 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I love to travel and stop at microbreweries or at brew-pubs… It is a nice way to get to know the country and people. The brewers and their clientel are unique people… I had a great time at Mikes Organic Brewery NZ and at the Silver Gulsch Beer Festival AK and of course at 1516 in Vienna AUT! Mach’ weiter so, Martin!

17 PJB June 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I forgot two little facts: I love beer and “Yes” I want your job!

18 Tryclyde June 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I find it sad when at a restaurant or bar with a healthy selection of good beer, people will inevitable order a bud, miller or coors light. Try something new!

19 Ryan June 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

As an avid home brewer, I can safely say I want his job. In fact I aspire to have his job.

20 Ian June 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Screw the job (though that would be great too!), I want the suit in that header image.

21 Brett McKay June 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@Philip-

That is a picture of Martin, not a stock image.

22 David Y June 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

“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.”

Agree wholeheartedly. But, then that applies to many things. Does not have to be most expensive or flashiest. But, quality is worth a little exta.

23 Collin Messer June 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I really want to become a brew master now! Sounds pretty sweet! I’m only 22 but I definitely fall in the quality not quantity group. And I love good craft beers. In fact I don’t really even know what those “light” beers taste like, I had one once and thought it was disgusting.

Also, that is an awesome photo.

24 Andrew#2 June 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Never liked beer until I busted into a Phillip’s Brewery Chocolate Porter, in Victoria B.C. Fantastic. Love the pint bottle too.

One pint of good beer is worth two dozen nasty beers.

25 Peter@themensdomain June 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Great article! I’m a big fan of homebrewing and artisan food/beverage products but sadly I just don’t have the time to get really good at it. I’ll just continue to enjoy the fruits of labour from people like Martin instead.

26 Mike June 25, 2011 at 2:16 am

@Peter

Speaking of someone who used to make their own wine and did so terribly, I can say that there’s something pretty satisfying about having a glass of something you made yourself, even if it’s not as good as something you could buy. Even if you just do it once you might be surprised at how much you enjoy having your own “house” brew.

27 Hector June 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm

What about being an accountant? CPA? Sounds like a cool job

28 Floyd June 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

As a homebrewer, I am surprised he did not talk about all the cleaning and sanitizing. Great read & thanks for more focus lately here on craft beers.

29 Quaxile June 28, 2011 at 5:48 am

I have enjoyed a few beers with Martin. He is a great guy and he makes excellent beer. If you are ever in Vienna stop by the 1516!

30 Steven June 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Funny, I was just wondering last week how to become a brewmaster and AoM didn’t have an article. This week they do. Thank you AofM. This is just one of those jobs where everyone wants to do it, but only a few have the guts to quit their day job and go after it…

However, didn’t you guys ask how much the past guests make? So how much do brewmasters get paid?

31 Victor De Anda October 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I’m agree in supporting small and micro breweries, but oftenly is a little hard to find out craftmade beers in local liquor stores or super makets. I think, there’s a lot of job to do in marketing and comercialization issues in order to make more accesible craftmade beers to the consumers…regards from Mexico

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter