Job as a Brewery technician
Sharon Lyons drinks beer for a job! She is a brewery technician at a brewery in Yorkshire. She landed the job after a work placement during her degree course.
What do you do?
I am the assistant brewer responsible for mashing and all aspects of management of the cask filling procedure. I also carry out laboratory analysis at various stages of brewing and organise the daily operational planning and stock management.
What is mashing?
Each brew starts with a mixture of milled malt (grist) and hot treated water (liquor). Mashing is the process of mixing these two ingredients together to a particular consistency and temperature.
Our beer takes a day to brew, and a further nine days to ferment, cool and condition. It is then put into casks, stored for a further three days and then delivered to pubs and wholesalers.
What equipment do you use?
I use a microscope for checking yeast vitality and saccharometers for measuring the gravity or alcoholic content of the beer. All the equipment involved must be checked for cleanliness. I use a pH meter for carrying out acidity checks on our effluent plant, and also when washing yeast where we use an acid.
We pump hot caustic soda through the pipework to clean it and I need to check samples to ensure the cleaning solution is at the right concentration.
How did you get into this type of work?
I came to the brewery on a work placement whilst studying brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. During our break between the 3rd and 4th year, we had to do a 10-week industrial placement. That meant working in a brewery, distillery or maltings.
What training do you receive to become a brewery technician?
My initial training was mainly on-the-job with staff who had spent many years in the business. You can learn the theory at college or university but not the art. Experience is necessary to supplement the scientific approach. I also get this experience and training from technical papers and brewery-related seminars which I attend.
We also all receive training in manual handling and the use of breathing apparatus.
What hours do you work?
I work a rota of two weeks of 9am-5pm and one week of 7am-3pm. There are three brewers at Black Sheep so we take it in turns to come in and carry out the early morning mash.
Do you sample any of the beer you produce?
The head brewer carries out a series of checks for gravity, colour, clarity and flavour. We don't really have a taste panel as in most large breweries, but we do have a sample bar which is open to employees free of charge every Friday.
Why did you choose this type of work?
I like the variety and the challenge. No two days are ever the same and I'm not stuck behind a desk all day. There is a great sense of achievement watching people enjoying our product.
Are there any disadvantages?
You must be prepared to work late in order to complete the brew or finish filling casks with the contents of a tank.
What are the skills and qualities needed?
A science background, inter-personal skills and patience. In any production operation involving machinery, there are likely to be breakdowns and we are not immune to this.
Sharon's route to becoming a brewery technician
- A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Statistics.
- BSc in General Science majoring in Brewing and Distilling.
- Be prepared to start at the bottom, you learn a lot and earn respect along the way.
- Remember, brewing is an art, not just a science.
Brewery technician related jobs
- Cellar technician
- Food processing worker
- Packaging operative: Food and Drink Industry
Salary of a brewery technician
- Brewers start on between £15,750 and £23,100.
- At middle-management level, they earn between £26,250 and £28,350.
- A head brewer could earn between £42,000 and £63,000.
How to become a brewery technician
- You don't need any particular qualifications to be a brewery worker, but it's helpful to have some GCSEs/S grades, or equivalent qualifications, particularly if you want to become a supervisor. The Part 1 GNVQ in Manufacturing is particularly useful.
- You normally train on the job by doing NVQs/SVQs Levels 1 and 2 in Food and Drink Manufacturing Operations. Technicians can now gain a Level 3 NVQ qualification in Drinks Dispensing Systems – Installation and Maintenance. A science degree in brewing and distilling, or its equivalent, is essential to becoming a qualified brewer.
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