Technical brewers manage the beer-making process, in order to ensure the high quality and consistency of the end product

As a technical brewer, you'll oversee the brewing process, taking responsibility for raw materials, operatives and technicians, as well as maintaining the safe and effective running of the plant and machinery.

You may specialise in just one area of production or one type of beer, which is particularly likely in larger breweries, or have responsibility for all aspects of the process in small breweries. You'll also develop new recipes and products.

Technical brewing remains a hands-on occupation, despite increasing reliance on technology.

Responsibilities

Your responsibilities will vary to a certain extent depending on the size and type of brewery, but you'll typically need to:

  • purchase raw materials, such as hops, yeast and cereal, making sure they meet the required quality standards
  • monitor fermentation and check temperatures and the quality of samples, making any necessary production adjustments
  • accurately record raw materials, production stage timings and quality checks
  • perform yeast counts and cropping
  • work with the lab team, who carry out further tests to improve products
  • introduce new or different methods of brewing
  • find new suppliers and review existing ones
  • manage resources and staff to meet objectives
  • ensure the correct storage and stock management of raw materials
  • work on new recipes for seasonal and speciality beers ensuring they appeal to a particular certain market, or will enhance sales at a specific time of the year
  • help to design beer labels or marketing materials
  • plan budgets, keeping track of stock and records of raw materials
  • clean and maintain all equipment, making sure the strictest levels of hygiene are kept throughout the brewing process
  • ensure all work adheres to quality and safety standards at all times
  • keep up to date with developments in technology in the industry.

Salary

  • Salaries for graduate brewers in their first role with a major brewer are around £24,000, rising to £35,000 with experience.
  • Team leader/shift brewer roles are typically around £35,000 to £40,000 with major brewers.
  • Salaries for technical brewers range from around £45,000 to £50,000, rising to in excess of £55,000 for head brewer.
  • Salaries with regional breweries are likely to be between £5,000 and £10,000 lower.

Salaries vary according to the size of the brewery, geographical location and nature of the role. Larger breweries may provide benefits such as a pension scheme, healthcare and life assurance. You may also receive a shift allowance.

Income data from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD). Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Brewers typically work 40 hours a week. This may include shift work as the production process is continuous and will include weekends and evenings.

You may be called into work at short notice to deal with sudden problems, so you need to have a flexible approach to working hours.

What to expect

  • You'll spend a lot of time in the production area of the brewery, which is likely to be loud, hot and wet. You will also spend time in the office.
  • The physical demands of the job vary depending on the type of brewery. The smaller the brewery, for example, the more hands-on the job is likely to be. You'll generally need a good level of physical fitness to maintain and clean machinery.
  • Breweries are spread across most areas of the UK. However, the number of large breweries offering training is limited and you may need to relocate to find employment.
  • You'll need to wear protective clothing when brewing.
  • Travel isn't a feature of the role, although you may travel to meetings and events. UK brewing qualifications are internationally recognised and there are opportunities to work overseas, especially with multinational brewers.

Qualifications

You'll typically need a relevant degree to become a technical brewer. Subjects include:

  • applied chemistry
  • biological sciences
  • biotechnology
  • chemical, process and mechanical engineering
  • chemistry
  • food science or technology
  • microbiology.

The International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD), based at Heriot-Watt University, offers a BSc (Hons) Brewing & Distilling.

Although a postgraduate qualification isn't essential it may be useful, particularly if you don't have a related first degree. Relevant courses are available in brewing and distilling, brewing science, and brewing science and practice.

Search postgraduate courses in brewing science.

Entry without a degree is possible at the level of production assistant or brewery technician. You could then work towards becoming a technical brewer by gaining experience and further qualifications.

A range of training courses, including beginners' courses such as the Fundamentals of Distilling and Fundamentals of Brewing & Packaging, are offered by the IBD.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • scientific knowledge relevant to brewing and familiarity with the technical language of the brewing industry
  • general management skills and business awareness
  • decision-making and analytical skills
  • communication skills and the ability to lead and motivate a team
  • time management skills with the ability to plan ahead
  • interpersonal and team working skills
  • the ability to prioritise and manage multiple tasks with little supervision
  • problem-solving skills and the ability to think on your feet
  • attention to detail
  • a flexible approach to work
  • the confidence to question how things are done
  • creativity, particularly if producing limited release or seasonal beers
  • good IT skills.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience in a brewing environment is useful. The larger breweries may offer work placements or shadowing opportunities.

Brewing your own beer will give you a good insight into the beer making process and will show employers that you're committed to the profession.

Work experience in a laboratory or in a production facility is also useful as you will have knowledge of the processes involved in working in this type of environment.

Business, team working and management skills are also highly valued, as is sales, marketing and commercial experience. Getting experience in these areas prior to joining the profession can help your application.

Employers

Large brewing companies, many of which are international, are the main employers of technical brewers. However, opportunities are also available in small or regional breweries. Many of the larger brewery companies operate graduate recruitment schemes.

Once you've gained significant experience, it's possible to set up your own microbrewery. Find out more about self-employment.

Look for job vacancies at:

  • The Brewery Manual
  • IBD Jobs
  • New Scientist Jobs
  • Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA)

The websites of individual breweries may advertise jobs.

Specialist recruitment agencies, such as Carling Partnership, also advertise vacancies.

The SIBA and British Beer & Pub Association websites have a list of member breweries that may be useful for speculative applications for work or work shadowing.

Professional development

Larger breweries offer structured training programmes, which may involve visiting other production sites to gain an insight into how the whole business functions. In smaller breweries you may need to look for relevant training with external organisations yourself.

The IBD offers a range of training courses to develop your knowledge and experience. These include general certificates and diplomas in:

  • brewing
  • distilling
  • packaging.

The IBD also offers the Master Brewer qualification, which is aimed at experienced brewers who have successfully completed the Diploma in Brewing. It covers five modules, relevant to international brewing practices. For more information on available courses, see IBD Training.

A variety of training programmes, which range from one-day workshops to three-month courses, are also available from Brewlab.

You'll need to keep up to date with developments in the industry throughout your career. Continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities are available through the key professional bodies. Short courses and advanced training units, which will help you to develop knowledge of specialist areas or new technologies, are available from:

  • Campden BRI
  • ICBD - Courses

It's also possible to work towards chartered scientist (CSci) status, which can help your career progression. For full details, see the Science Council website.

Career prospects

With experience, it's possible to move into the role of senior or lead brewer. From there, there are opportunities to progress to the role of departmental manager, head brewer or technical director. These more advanced roles usually involve a move away from hands-on brewing and plant tasks to staff management and strategic issues.

The opportunities for career progression depend on a range of factors, for example the size and scope of the brewery you work for. You may need to move breweries or be prepared to relocate in order to further your career.

If you're aiming at senior posts, you need to have an aptitude for business and must be comfortable leading a team of specialists. For example, an understanding of financial data systems is important for a departmental manager and vital for a head brewer.

Larger companies may provide the opportunity to progress into related areas such as:

  • distribution
  • health and safety
  • logistics
  • purchasing
  • quality assurance
  • sales and marketing.

There are also opportunities to move into research and development.

With significant experience, you could go on to set up your own microbrewery.