Going Pro

I’ve been working for some time to be ready to enter the professional brewing world.  I’ve worked pretty much every position in a bar or restaurant at one point or another, understand design and maintenance of buildings, electrical systems, and complex mechanics (including fluid dynamics and thermodynamics), have worked a bottling line and helped design manufacturing workflows, and have homebrewed over 100 batches of beer.

But in today’s popularly competitive world of craft brewing, the landscape has changed.  Entry level brewing positions are requiring not only the usual combination of past experience and perfect timing, they are expecting formal education in brewing – preferably from UC Davis, Siebel, or ABG.  These professional-level certificate-bearing programs are in the order of $10,000 and higher – and most are booked solid more than a year or two in advance.  This is a pretty big hurdle to surmount (and it’s an important one – out of several hundred applicants for a Cellarman position at a small brewery, I was one of three chosen for interview . . . when I didn’t get the job and politely asked why, I was told that although they saw a lot of potential in me, the other two both had formal brewing education).  Shooting for the middle road, my focus went to gaining the certifications that I could reach (I already have a certificate in Bartending and used to be T.I.P.S. certified).  First, I passed the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam.  I then moved on to the BJCP Beer Judge exams and registered for the Certified Cicerone exam.

With the Cicerone exam looming, I called the local brewpub to see if I could sit in sometime in the next few weeks when they were cleaning their draft lines.  (I had used plenty of draft equipment and even helped with a few installations, but hadn’t been around for the day-to-day maintenance before.)  I thought there might be a good opportunity to try to schmooze my way into talking about a brewing job or apprenticeship in a low-key way, as the day before the owner had posted an announcement to the tavern’s email list that they would soon be distributing their beer under a new name (separate from the brewpub name).

As it turned out, the waitress tried to pass me to one of the brewers to have him talk to the boss about me coming in for a cleaning of the lines.  However, she passed me directly to the owner – who suggested the internship he had in mind before I had even breached the subject.  The tavern is only about 6 very hilly blocks, so I drove through the snow storm to have a talk with him.  I met Peter, talked briefly, and spent a good while talking to Craig, one of the brewers.  We all seemed to like each other, Peter seemed as eager to have me on board and I was to get into commercial brewing – and was even excited about my baking background and spent grain experiments to use some of his spent grain in the kitchen.

So I officially have an unpaid internship as a Brewer for Milly’s Tavern and Stark Mills Brewing in Manchester, NH that will last for 30 days and conclude in a job.  Pretty much just what I’d been looking for to get my foot in the door.  I’m working with Craig Yersheau (who has been at Milly’s for 4 months after working for a Vermont-based cider company) and Bryan Link (who started as an intern last summer under the old brewer and found himself to be the only brewer two weeks later, getting a crash-course in the industry under Owner/Brewmaster Peter Telge).

I poured through every account of people entering the world of professional brewing that I could find over the last few years and know that many others do the same.  The information that I have found in these websites, blogs, and podcasts has been incalculably valuable to me on my path.  It is only right that I now shine a light on the path that I have wandered for the benefit of others.  I can’t promise to keep it up with such frenetic regularity later on, but I will try to post updates and descriptions of each and every day at the brewery throughout the 30 days of my internship.

Blogs can be a bit tricky to navigate sometimes, so here is a list of direct links to the Brewery Internship Dailies:

First Day at the Brewery!

WEEK 1:

Brewery Intern – Day 01:  Hi, Here’s Some Kegs  [Monday]

Brewery Intern – Day 02:  Scrubby Grundy   [Tuesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 03:  Filtration Blues   [Wednesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 04:  Swap Them Hoses   [Thursday]

Brewery Intern – Day 05:  Double Bubble Toil And …   [Friday]

WEEK 2:

Brewery Intern – Day 06:  Kegs, Cask, and Yeast   [Monday]

Brewery Intern – Day 07:  Runnin’ Tha Stout   [Tuesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 08:  Smoother Runnings   [Wednesday]

Day off for Certified Cicerone exam in Danvers, MA [Thursday]

Brewery Intern – Day 09:  Gettin’ in Tha Groove   [Friday]

WEEK 3:

Brewery Intern – Day 10:  Hosing Everything Down   [Monday]

Brewery Intern – Day 11:  Russian Imperial Moves   [Tuesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 12:  I Wanna Mount U   [Wednesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 13:  Scrub-n-Cycle   [Thursday]

Brewery Intern – Day 14:  Tetrisic Excavation   [Friday]

WEEK 4:

Brewery Intern – Day 15:  Kegs in the Cold   [Monday]

Brewery Intern – Day 16:  Sampling Sours   [Tuesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 17:  Restarting Sour Program   [Wednesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 18:  Sir Hopsalot’s Cap   [Thursday]

Brewery Intern – Day 19:  Irish Preparations   [Friday]

WEEK 5:

Brewery Intern – Day 20:  Let the Kegs Roll   [Monday]

Brewery Intern – Day 21:  Business of Beer   [Tuesday]

called out sick with a 24-hour stomach bug [Wednesday]

Brewery Intern – Day 22:  Mashin’ De Hagg   [Thursday]

Brewery Intern – Day 23:  Sea Hagg Returns   [Friday]

END OF INTERNSHIP!

For those who want the quick brewhouse specs, we brew with an 18bbl direct-fired boil kettle and a 15bbl mash tun with a false bottom.  Plate filter and plate chiller with inline oxygenation stone.  We have six stainless steel jacketed 14bbl conical fermentors made by DME.  For bulk storage, we have three 15bbl DME brite tanks and six 8bbl classic Grundy tanks.

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