A technical brewer is one of the most senior positions in the beer production process and in the beer industry job landscape. They are responsible for a wide range of technical and managerial tasks including overseeing the brewing process, managing teams and maintaining brewing equipment.
In a small brewery, the technical brewer is usually responsible for managing the entire brewing process from sourcing raw materials through to packaging. However, in some larger breweries, a technical brewer may be in charge of one particular variety of beer or a specific part of the beer production process. The technical brewer is ultimately responsible for the quality of the end product.
Technical Brewer Responsibilities
The technical brewer has a wide range of responsibilities that can vary depending on the brewery and its production capacity. Some of the tasks that a technical brewer will usually be responsible for include:
- Purchasing raw materials for beer making
The technical brewer will purchase the raw materials necessary to make beer, including yeast, hops and cereals. They must have the experience necessary to purchase raw materials of a high quality. They may have to undertake scientific tests on raw materials to ensure they are appropriate for the beer being brewed.
- Checking brewing conditions and maintaining quality
The brewer will use their scientific knowledge and experience to ensure the production process is in order and brewing conditions are ideal. This will involve some in-depth scientific analysis of the brew at specific points in the production process. The technical brewer must also ensure that the highest levels of hygiene are maintained throughout the brewing process.
- Keeping detailed records of the brewing process
The technical brewer must maintain very detailed records of the brew process, to ensure that specific targets are met and the brew conditions are uniform.
They may have to manage the outgoing costs and work to a specific budget
- Working with suppliers
Working with suppliers of raw materials, packaging and bottles is a major part of the technical brewers’ job. The technical brewer must ensure that the suppliers maintain a specific level of quality and deal with supply chain issues.
- Overseeing technical changes and repairs
A technical brewer must ensure all equipment is properly maintained and instruct their team on how to perform the necessary maintenance. They will also make brewing equipment purchasing decisions and advise the brewery on how to improve the production line with new equipment.
- Inventory control
The availability of raw materials and packaging materials must be carefully monitored by the technical brewer. It is their responsibility to ensure the components necessary for brewing beer are always available.
- Managing the beer packaging process
Ensuring the packaging facilities are working correctly and that there are adequate number of bottles, kegs and packaging materials available.
- Managing brewery teams
They may have to manage team members on the brew floor, either directly or via the management chain of command. The brewer must be able to clearly communicate directions to colleagues and inspect the quality of their work.
- Developing and testing new beers
The brewer may have to develop new types of beers, usually in conjunction with other brewers, marketing and sales. Once a new beer has been formulated, the technical brewer must take the process and translate it to the brew house floor so larger volumes can be produced to the same standard.
The technical brewer will spend most of their time in the production area of the brewery, ensuring that all Health and Safety and brewing processes are running smoothly. This can be a smelly, noisy environment that may be hot and humid. Sometimes the work hours of a technical brewer can be dictated by the brewing processes that are occurring — there can be long work days involved.
Technical brewers working at smaller breweries may need to have flexible working hours, depending on what beer is currently being made. Brewers at larger breweries that operate 24 hours a day may work in shifts and have unusual hours.
Technical brewers will also spend time in an office environment, communicating with suppliers, recording inventory levels, recording brew data and liaising with management.
A technical brewer should have advanced scientific knowledge, in chemistry, microbiology, and/or biochemistry. Engineering knowledge is also useful for dealing with machinery and improving production processes.
The scientific knowledge can be obtained by undertaking a degree in:
- Brewing and distilling
- Chemical engineering
- Food science or food technology
If a scientific degree has been obtained, a technical brewer should also have experience working in a brewery and/or a postgraduate degree or certificate in brewing. Organisations such as the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) offer excellent Course and Examinations to provide essential brewing knowledge.
Some breweries may also look for managerial, logistics or business qualifications.
A technical brewer must have strong practical skills and problem solving abilities, which usually come from work experience in similar roles. Employers also look for technical brewers with the following experience:
- Excellent leadership capabilities
- Modern manufacturing practices, principles and techniques
- Project management knowledge
- Mechanical or engineering experience
- High level brewing experience
- Record keeping abilities
- Experience analysing and improving beer production processes
Key Skills of a Technical Brewer
For such a diverse role, a wide range of key skills are useful. A technical brewer should be:
- A great communicator and manager
The technical brewer regularly communicates with many types of people in different roles including other brewers, production staff, managerial staff, suppliers, logistics, customers, marketing staff and the general public. They should also be capable of leading and developing teams.
- Flexible and able to deal with emergencies
Brewers often face engineering issues that must be dealt with quickly. Being able to problem-solve and maintain flexibility is essential.
- Passionate about brewing and highly experienced at beer making
A technical brewer must be highly experience with the art of beer-making and must love what they do.
- Capable of innovation
A technical brewer must constantly look for ways to improve the brew process. If the brewery is developing new beers, the technical brewer must also be able to develop new techniques and production processes.
- Methodical, logical and detail orientated
The beer making process is carried out in stages that must be perfectly replicated for each batch to maintain the same level of quality.
- Physical fitness
In small microbreweries there may be some lifting involved so the technical brewer needs to be physically fit.
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