You come up with some good threads Jim.
I agree with all the above. What I would add is that I think breweries should pay their brewers more. The starting wage for a person who is competent and who is expected to care about the little things that make a big difference in the beer, hence the businesse's profits and future, should be at least 40K in today's dollars.
I am shocked at how little brewers make. You expect art, science, and physical labor from someone you pay 14 dollars an hour?! Dream on.
I will say that I think brewers, like most people, should be better paid. However, the pay rate for brewers is probably in line with what the labor market will support. Most of the work done by brewers is cleaning and other physical labor tasks. Operating the brewhouse is mostly about following a procedure set out by the head brewer/owner. Most brewer positions are assistant brewer positions where the work is roughly similar to other labor-intensive jobs in the same pay range. These are positions that do not require a college degree and can be learned on the job in a relatively short period of time.
What unfairly drives wages low for brewers is the massive amount of demand for the position. You have so many people trying to get these jobs that breweries have their pick of people with biology and engineering degrees that they can tap to do much more complex work at a low wage. The people offering up free work to breweries also drives down their wages. Every homebrewer who comes in and "helps out" at the brewery is taking a job away from somebody and depressing the wages of people who do have those jobs.