Brew School: Brewing Up Something New

Posted on March 10th, 2011

There have been a lot of changes since I made the transition from working at a brewery producing just under 3,000-barrels to one that produces a combined 100,000-barrels in two locations.

The most obvious transition was going from the production side of things to operations side. That’s right, I’m no longer brewing beer for a living. I was expecting a lot of scoffs and confused looks but after explaining this to many close friends, I still receive the requisite response—“it must be so cool working for a brewery!”

Essentially, I have the ultimate office job, if you want to call it that. I am the bridge between the brewery—the production side of things—and the sales reps—the business side of things. While I’m still the office equivalent of keg washer, I’m still spending every minute at work dealing with the beer. It’s my job to assist in production (i.e. plan what is brewed and how much) and make sure the beer gets where it needs to go and ensure it gets there on time.

In addition to the obvious change in job title, I’m also able to witness how a highly functional and nationally renowned brewery operates. For example, the other day at work one of our brand managers informed me that they were conducting an off-flavors tasting in the brew house. Instantly intrigued, I traveled downstairs from my desk to see a table full of different cups, each infected with different symptoms of a bad beer.

If I wanted, I could quaff a nice glass of oxidized brew, or learn what a mug of diacetyl tastes like (it’s extremely buttery, by the way). Although these are things I learned while manning the brew kettle at my previous job, I soon learned that new place of employment wanted everyone to learn this information. Not only were the brewer’s expected to detect the presence of dimethyl sulfide in a bad beer, but the salespeople and tour guides as well! Live by the brew, die by the brew!

After sitting through a forty-minute tasting of off beers and trying to determine the difference between a four year old Czech Pilsner and an American Czech-style Pilsner, I realized that the opportunity for me to learn about beer is only getting greater.

With this new column, my hope is to impart not only brewing knowledge and science, but also the little things that make the beer industry tick. After all, we wouldn’t have great beer without great brewers, but without informed and knowledgeable beer fans and enthusiasts, there’d be no one to enjoy the fruits of their labor.