Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => Going Pro => Topic started by: el_capitan on August 18, 2017, 05:25:27 AM

Title: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: el_capitan on August 18, 2017, 05:25:27 AM
Alright guys, here's the scoop.  A couple friends of mine have successfully made the transition from homebrewers to professional brewers.  They opened a local brewery last Christmas after several years of intense planning.  So far, they have grown fast and are now nearing max production for their location. 

They're working hard to keep up production on the beers, and have really dialed in their system.  One crucial step that is lacking in their process is test-batch brewing.  This became painfully apparent a couple weeks ago, when they had to dump a batch of BGSA because it had problems with the alcohol balance. 

After that, I approached them with the idea of hiring me on as a test-batch brewer.  I would brew on their 10-gallon pilot system to help refine recipes before scaling up the full-scale batches.  They simply don't have the time to do that, alongside their current brewing schedule. 

A bit of background here - I've brewed for over 13 years and I'm at about batch 200.  These guys have learned quickly, but have only brewed for 4 years or so, and they're on about batch 40.  I've been helping them out behind the scenes by advising, evaluating beers, sharing knowledge, and sharing samples of my homebrew as ideas for future commercial brews.  It's been a lot of fun so far, and I'm excited about officially joining the team.

My question is - with my level of experience and knowledge, what do you think is a fair wage for that position?  This may be a step towards brewing full-scale commercial batches during the summer time, when I'm not teaching.  For now, I would help with recipe development and refinement, brewing the beer, monitoring fermentation, packaging it in kegs, and gathering evaluative feedback from groups of knowledgeable beer drinkers.  I also spend a fair amount of time researching new ingredients and techniques, and I share this knowledge with them too. 

Let me know your thoughts.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: brewinhard on August 19, 2017, 07:51:47 PM
Hmmmmm....

A good friend of mine did this for a handful of years in a new small brewery that opened up near him. In addition to being the pilot brewer, he also took care of social media (keeping up their changing website, facebook page, etc). IIRC he was getting about $800/mos in addition to free beer at the brewery AND free ingredients for his own personal homebrewing (they obviously paid for the pilot test batches that he brewed). This was a good handful of years ago and things may have changed. Just a data point for you.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on August 19, 2017, 11:07:12 PM
I pay my guys between 9 and 11 to start. We pay salary to managers and folks who deserve it. 30K and up.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on August 20, 2017, 03:38:48 AM
I can't really see something like that paying as much as an assistant brewer, which would be $15/hr on the high end. I'd probably be thinking more like they cover ingredients and a bar tab.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: el_capitan on August 21, 2017, 03:36:41 AM
Interesting, and kind of disheartening.  I'll try to do the best I can and see what shakes down.  Thanks for the input, fellas. 
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on August 22, 2017, 01:14:27 AM
Interesting, and kind of disheartening.  I'll try to do the best I can and see what shakes down.  Thanks for the input, fellas.

Fact  of the matter is people just don't make a lot of money working at breweries.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: Wilbur on August 22, 2017, 04:19:07 AM
This could be kind of tricky, I'd just say make sure everyone is clear on what the deal is. It might be easier to lay it out as a per recipe deal, as long as you lay out what that includes.
Considerations

Also, about $9-11/hr. If that's not worth it to you, just quote what you'd be willing to do it for. They can also look at pro brewers or professors, so I'm not sure how valuable the homebrewing experience is. Not knocking your knowledge or anything, but it's a tradeoff for them. Your pitch might be availability/time, the other option is going with someone with more experience on pro size equipment.
http://allaboutbeer.com/article/everybody-wants-to-be-a-brewer/ (http://allaboutbeer.com/article/everybody-wants-to-be-a-brewer/)

On the other hand, I know this is also an exciting opportunity for you, but is this the best thing for their business? This might be a good short term solution, but the better option might hiring a part time brewer to help out with normal production.

Hope it goes well, it's a great opportunity. Also a great opportunity for me to ramble on incoherently.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: el_capitan on August 22, 2017, 06:21:02 AM
Thanks for the chuckle, Wilbur.  You weren't rambling or incoherent.  To clarify, I would be brewing on the 10-gallon pilot system in the actual brewery, on an off-day like a Sunday.  I'd be in there probably twice per month.  So, this is not really homebrew, it's "R&D Beer" done on a much smaller scale.  The recipe formulation would be done as a collaboration with the main brewer, since he enjoys ownership of that aspect of the brewery. 

So essentially, I would be brewing 10-gallon batches at the brewery, which could be marketed as R&D Beers with customers giving feedback on the beer, with the understanding that it's under development.  You're right that the time factor is the big draw here, and I have a level of experience and knowledge that inspires confidence in my brewing.  I'm brewing beers that are consistently high-quality, and after cycling through a lot of the standard styles, I'm pushing forward with some unique cultural beer styles that are not typical in a brewery, such as Sahti, Grödziskie/Grätzer, etc.  We're in Minnesota, with a lot of Scandinavian influence, so those particular beers are of interest to our local community. 

Anyway, perhaps $12/hr is a decent starting wage for what I'm describing.  I'm not really in this to make a ton of money - I just want to help my friends develop new high-quality beers and keep pushing the brewing envelope.  If I can get paid to do what I enjoy, while defining my own work schedule, I don't see a huge downside.  I have no ambitions to start a commercial brewery of my own, so this would be a nice way to enter into the profession without having it dominate my world.  I'm a full-time teacher, father of three, and generally busy dude with lots of hobbies and interests, so this will fit nicely into my life.  I just wanted to see if that wage was in the ballpark. 

Thanks, guys!  I'll keep you posted.  Either way, I'm pumped to be expanding my brewing a bit.  Cheers.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: dmtaylor on August 22, 2017, 11:12:46 AM
Would they find you extremely valuable to the team, like indispensible?  Then they should give you $12/hour.  If assistants like you are more like a dime a dozen, that's when they can be down like $9 or $10.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: Wilbur on August 22, 2017, 02:42:13 PM
I'm pushing forward with some unique cultural beer styles that are not typical in a brewery, such as Sahti, Grödziskie/Grätzer, etc.  We're in Minnesota, with a lot of Scandinavian influence, so those particular beers are of interest to our local community.

Love Minnesota, got a lot of family up there. Any tips on a Sahti recipe? I'm planning on brewing one of the recipes by Lars Garshol in Homebrew Allstars (Great book). I'm hoping Lars publishes an english version of his book on Norwegian Farmhouse ales, but until then my brother is learning Norwegian. Hopefully he can get a rough translation done in the next 2-3 years.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: Visor on August 22, 2017, 03:37:31 PM
   Sorry if I'm stating the obvious here, but to my mind, the value of labor, when not dictated by labor unions or government, is a compromise between the worker thinks their time is worth, and what the wage payer feels they will derive in benefits from that labor, with of course an uncountable number of factors and variables effecting that estimation. How many dollars if measurable direct value will be derived from the labor? How much additional income/value may be generated if the labor in question frees others up to pursue other endeavors? What is the average going rate for that type of labor locally or, if there are no local comparisons to be made, what does it pay elsewhere? Who most wants or needs the deal to be made, the laborer or the employer? Every situation is unique, if you and your friends can find a number that you all can live with, then that ultimately is the value of your labor for this specific situation.
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: el_capitan on October 31, 2017, 12:05:53 AM
Well, it's official!  I'm the "RND Brewer" at Copper Trail Brewing Co.  (http://coppertrailbrewing.com/) We agreed on a wage that is quite good, and I also get a couple growlers from each batch to share with tasting panels and get feedback.  It's great to be brewing professionally on a hobby scale.  What I mean is that I can brew professionally without it being a full-time job.  I spend one or two Sundays each month brewing a 10-gallon batch on the pilot system.  These beers will be marketed as RND Beers with the idea that customers will give feedback.  I plan to run each recipe through 2-3 iterations as needed to refine them, before we scale them up to our 7-barrel system. 

The first batch I brewed was a IIPA we're calling "Wet and Wild."  It has wet Cascades that we grew, as well as some wild hops from Montana that I call Hollowtop.  I've been friends with the business owners for a few years now, and I helped one of them start a small local hop farm last year.  Overall, I'm really happy to be working with my friends and bringing fresh beer options to our area.  We have many new breweries in MN, but this is the first local brewery in over 70 years.  The brewery has proven to be a great gathering place, and the owners host many events to bring in the public.  If you're ever in the area (Alexandria, MN) stop by. 

Cheers! 
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: dmtaylor on October 31, 2017, 12:10:22 AM
Very cool!  Wish you all the best!
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: majorvices on October 31, 2017, 01:07:13 PM
That's awesome! Sounds like a fun gig!
Title: Re: Starting Wage for a Test-Batch Brewer?
Post by: reverseapachemaster on October 31, 2017, 02:31:29 PM
Congratulations!