Author Topic: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?  (Read 4300 times)

Offline boulderbrewer

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #30 on: February 28, 2012, 11:45:03 PM »
Arguing about sematics? Why would you want to do that, when we all have plenty to learn.
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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #31 on: February 29, 2012, 07:21:48 AM »
Instead of "pro-brewing" I have been calling it "commercial brewing" to avoid people getting their feeling hurt/dander up, whatever. I know some homebrewers who know more about brewing than some pro - ahhh, I mean commercial brewers.  ;) And I have found the homebrew community rich with creative ideas. Some of the best beer you will ever taste without question is homebrewed.

OTOH I would para-phrase Steven King who says a "professional writer is one who writes something, gets paid for it and pays the utility bill with it." I think the same thing applies here. Also, I will point out that most commercial brewers (myself included) brew several times a week (I brew 3 - 4 times a week now) and we eat, breath and sleep brewing all day, every day and often well on into the night. I don't have many times during the day when I am not thinking about something regarding the brewery, often I fall asleep wondering if my yeast shipment will arrive or wake up worrying if the glycol pump is still functioning. So there is a "pro" aspect to it that goes beyond just an "art form". And, FWIW I am a trained artist and I consider brewing a "craft" not an art form but boulder is right - enough of semantics already.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 07:27:45 AM by majorvices »
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Offline nateo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #32 on: February 29, 2012, 12:22:28 PM »
Re: Pro v amateur. Glad we got that sorted out. Anyway, I'm going to start brewing on a schedule like some of you suggested.

I'm also looking into opening a nanobrewery in the meantime. I know it's not a great business decision, but it's cheaper than Siebel or UC Davis (since we already have a building that could work, and wouldn't have to pay rent/utilities), and should be a great learning experience for when we buy a "proper" brewery.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #33 on: February 29, 2012, 12:30:36 PM »
Re: Pro v amateur. Glad we got that sorted out. Anyway, I'm going to start brewing on a schedule like some of you suggested.

I'm also looking into opening a nanobrewery in the meantime. I know it's not a great business decision, but it's cheaper than Siebel or UC Davis (since we already have a building that could work, and wouldn't have to pay rent/utilities), and should be a great learning experience for when we buy a "proper" brewery.
Obviously you can do whatever you like but, financial things aside, this seems like a questionable decision to me.  Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.  If you're not sure that reputation is going to be positive, you might not want to sell the beer.  Once you get a rep as a bad brewer it can be hard to overcome, and you don't want that following you into the next venture.
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Offline nateo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #34 on: February 29, 2012, 08:29:13 PM »
Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.

Oh man, I wish that were true. I've drank so much awful beer at so many profitable brewpubs I can't count them all. I would never count on the general public to have good taste.
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Online phunhog

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #35 on: February 29, 2012, 11:01:19 PM »
Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.

Oh man, I wish that were true. I've drank so much awful beer at so many profitable brewpubs I can't count them all. I would never count on the general public to have good taste.

I have often wondered how places with bad or even marginal beer stay in business.  I agree with Nateo...the general beer drinking public doesn't really have much taste.

Offline nateo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #36 on: March 01, 2012, 05:00:14 AM »
I have often wondered how places with bad or even marginal beer stay in business.  I agree with Nateo...the general beer drinking public doesn't really have much taste.

I read an article about blind tastings. Expert sommeliers can't tell the difference between a red and a white if they're served at the same temperature and in an opaque glass. Most people can't tell the difference between pate and dog food. Enjoyment of a product is largely about context. That's why breweries put little stories on their bottles, and go to the trouble of corking and caging, and applying foil to tops.
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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2012, 05:40:13 AM »
I've read and listened to the stories of sommeliers but it wasn't that they couldn't tell the difference between red and white wine but rather they couldn't tell the difference between an $8 bottle and a $50 bottle. I'm pretty sure most of us could tell the difference between Amber Bock and Celebrator. ;)

Regardless, not sure how many of you were beer drinkers in the early 90's but a very similar situation was happening then that is happening now. Lots of breweries popping up here there and everywhere. Lot's of these people had the dream first of opening a brewery and then learning how to make beer. That bubble burst and most of those breweries that were making sh!tty beer went down the toilette and drug a bunch of the good ones down with them.

Well, the exact same thing is happening again now. People should not start with idea of a brewery but with the passion for crafting beer. way too many people are enamored by the stainless steel tanks and equipment and volume and not enough about the yeast and fermentation and malt and hops.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #38 on: March 01, 2012, 06:06:18 AM »
I've read and listened to the stories of sommeliers but it wasn't that they couldn't tell the difference between red and white wine but rather they couldn't tell the difference between an $8 bottle and a $50 bottle. I'm pretty sure most of us could tell the difference between Amber Bock and Celebrator. ;)

Regardless, not sure how many of you were beer drinkers in the early 90's but a very similar situation was happening then that is happening now. Lots of breweries popping up here there and everywhere. Lot's of these people had the dream first of opening a brewery and then learning how to make beer. That bubble burst and most of those breweries that were making sh!tty beer went down the toilette and drug a bunch of the good ones down with them.

Well, the exact same thing is happening again now. People should not start with idea of a brewery but with the passion for crafting beer. way too many people are enamored by the stainless steel tanks and equipment and volume and not enough about the yeast and fermentation and malt and hops.

This has been clear to me for the last year or so.  There are people out there that have brewed some beer, think it is great, and want to open a brewery.  The beer is flat out bad, and they don't have a clue.

On the other side of the coin, just because you make good, or even really good beer, it does not mean you will be successful.

There are places springing up all around here.  Some will not last. Some of the established breweries are expanding, but they have a handle on quality, and will grow more.
Jeff Rankert
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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #39 on: March 01, 2012, 06:15:46 AM »


On the other side of the coin, just because you make good, or even really good beer, it does not mean you will be successful.

Agree. Just like any business there is a chance you will fail no matter how good you are. Perhaps the fail rate is even greater with breweries.

When I first planned to open my brewery there was one other local brewery making pretty bad beer, and one other brewery in Alabama that had just started up making good beer a couple hours away. By the time I opened my doors two other breweries sprung up locally and two more in state. The one making "pretty bad beer" failed. Two of the other breweries had deep pockets and have expanded rapidly. Just last month another "brewery" opened it's doors (I use quotes because they contract brew but they are calling themselves "local") and I know of another brewery in development and two others at least in planning.

There is no way that all of us will be able to survive. I feel lucky that we got started when we did because tap space is going to start filling up but expanding is going to be quite a challenge.
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Offline bo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #40 on: March 01, 2012, 06:17:57 AM »
Be sure you love to brew, because there are many other ways to make better money.

Offline nateo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2012, 09:50:45 AM »
I studied audio engineering in college before I switched programs. I knew a lot of people graduating ahead of me with plenty of skill and talent who couldn't find jobs. Even internships were hard to impossible without being friends with someone who owned a studio. One of my friends told me to just drop out and spend my tuition money on my own studio, because he learned more in one year working for himself than he did in four years in school.

When I got interested in brewing, I ran into a similar situation with brewers. Even when I lived in Denver, I couldn't find breweries who were willing to take on interns or volunteers. Most of the breweries I talked to either had their friends volunteering already, or didn't want to deal with the hassle of volunteers. Like in audio, I think brewers are looking at the kids trying to get started and thinking about how that'll slice into their piece of pie, so I don't blame them for not training new people.

I know finding a way into the brewing industry is something a lot of people struggle with, even people with brewing degrees and lots of internship experience. If nepotism and money can get me into the brewing industry, I'll take it.
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Offline dcbc

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #42 on: March 01, 2012, 10:15:14 AM »
Can't recall if this was mentioned yet, but consider going the Brewer's Guild Program.  My friend that just opened a 15 barrel production brewery took the time to take that course and got a ton out of it.  We can all make beer.  But there are so many little things that he was on top of from the get go when he was getting his shop setup that I know he would have never thought of had he not delayed the business to get the education.  I know there's a waiting list; he was on it, too.  But people drop out and it wasn't nearly as long as it was originally supposed to be.
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Offline nateo

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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #43 on: March 01, 2012, 11:43:16 AM »
Can't recall if this was mentioned yet, but consider going the Brewer's Guild Program. 

I would love to do that program, but at this point it's cost-prohibitive. We would have to hire at least a full time and part time employee, or two full time people, to replace me at our current business for 6 months. I think it might be cheaper to hire an out-of-work brewer to train me, as Sean suggested.

If there ends up being enough time between when we sell this place and buy the brewpub, the program might be feasible. Or maybe another tornado will come through and wipe out our whole operation. Then I'd have plenty of free time.
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Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
« Reply #44 on: March 01, 2012, 05:55:54 PM »
Lots of good advice around here! I think ultimately it all depends on what YOU want out of the deal. All I want out of owning a small brewery is the ability to brew more than 200 gallons a year,  having local people stop by for a pint or growler, and the ability to donate beer for local charity fundraisers. These are all things that are currently illegal for homebrewers to do, at least in my state.  I am not quitting my job nor looking for a second career. You could even look at it as an extension of homebrewing but with the chance to make a little money, which is more than I make homebrewing ;)