Running a brewery requires a rather broad skill set that extends far beyond simply making beer. In fact, brewing makes up a pretty small percentage of the total number of tasks you’ll need to undertake. In this guide we’ll go over a typical week in the life of a brewer.
Brew day prep
It’s important to plan ahead when it comes to scheduling brewing and packaging. That way you can be sure you never run out of ingredients and materials, and ensure a steady supply of beer.
Before brewing, it’s good to spend half a day or so preparing. This typically involves a number of tasks:
- Cleaning the fermenter that you’ll be using – ideally it should have been emptied and depressurized the day before, or earlier on the same day. A hot rinse, followed by a caustic wash, and a final hot rinse should do the job. There’s no need to carry out an acid wash, as it’s best to let the FV cool down, and the less time between acid wash and filling the better.
- Preparing malt for the brew day. It’s good to get a head start on the brew day, and one of the best ways to do this is to weigh out and mill your malt the day before.
- Heat the water that you’ll need for the brewday. Fill your HLT and get it heated up so that the next day you can start mashing in early. It’s best to overheat it if possible, but leave space to add cold water in case you need to cool it down.
- Prepare paperwork such as brew logs and a consumable materials report, so that tomorrow you can focus on the brew.
Depending on your setup, equipment, and the type of beer you’re brewing, you can expect to spend around 7 to 10 hours per brew day, including cleaning. If you’re working alone, you will be responsible for everything from mashing in, to taking measurements, to cleaning up.
A lot of breweries will brew twice to fill one fermenter, either in one day or over two days depending on staff and process. If you’re working alone, you can expect to do 2 brew days in a row if you choose this route.
Day 1 is typically busier, as you have to take care of giving the fermenter a sanitizing wash, prepare the yeast, and get your malt ready for the second brew day. The second day is generally more relaxed, but you’ll need to take care of the brew day paperwork and clean up.
Brew day cleaning
Clean up is essential and should never be skipped. While you don’t necessarily have to give a thorough caustic wash on the same day as brewing, you do need to give the entire system a hot rinse. Use a hose or pressure washer to clean the worst organic matter from inside the mash/lauter and kettle, then give it a hot rinse via the spray ball.
Next, make sure to run hot water through any pipes that wort has been in, and recirculate if possible. Finally, run hot water through the heat exchange and transfer hoses to dislodge and solids and kill bacteria. Beside the equipment, you’ll need to wash the floors, walls, measuring tools, glasses, etc. Nothing should be left with wort or beer on it – in summer, this invites fruit flies and other pests, and if left unchecked, will cause mold.
Post brew day tasks
Brewing a beer is all well and good, but you’ll need to look after it while it ferments and the weeks of conditioning after that. It’s important to check that fermentation has started well, and to keep logs monitoring the process. During fermentation you’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature and if you’re using pressurized fermenters, the pressure in the tank.
Other tasks include purging the yeast (and hops if dry hopping), taking gravity readings to monitor the fermentation process, and taking samples for sensory analysis and defect identification (such as diacetyl). If you’re dry hopping, you may want to reduce the temperature, before eventually cold crashing.
After cold crashing, you’ll need to monitor the pressure and check for carbonation, and also carry out further sensory tests to be sure that there are no defects. Eventually, you’ll know when to start packaging.
Post brew day cleaning
It’s important to clean your brewhouse equipment properly after use. While you don’t have to do this on brew day if you’ve rinsed it, you will need to do it before the next brew, and the sooner the better. This is especially important for the heat exchanger, which will need a good hot caustic wash to remove any organic matter. You can expect to spend half a day carrying out post brew day cleaning, including recirculating a caustic solution in the brewhouse vessels and the heat exchange.
For more on this topic, check out: How to clean a brewery
Besides brewing, there’s a multitude of other tasks to consider. In a typical week, you can expect to spend time:
- Preparing shipments for delivery
- Communicating with clients (selling) and suppliers (buying)
- Receiving deliveries
- Stock management, including a full stock check each month, placing orders (everything from brewing ingredients to toilet paper), etc.
- Quality control of existing batches
- Packaging operations (bottling, labeling, making cardboard boxes, etc.)
- Managing promotional materials, website content, emails, and social media (taking photos, etc.)
- Cleaning – non stop
- Planning and designing new recipes
- Communicating with accountant and other partners
- Fixing and tweaking equipment
- Preparing for events (especially during summer season)
- Paperwork (invoices, contracts for partners/employees, keeping up with authorizations)
- Waste management (spent grains, cardboard, glass, general waste, etc.)
If you’re hired as a contractor rather than an employee, remember to write down the time you started and finished work at the brewery each day (this seems like an obvious task, but when you’re leaving the brewery dead tired, there’s a good chance it will slip your mind). The time spent working from home (on tasks such as recipe designs, communication with suppliers and retailers, stock checks, etc) also counts, so make sure to clock that in as well. This way, you’ll have an up to date log of your working hours, which you will need when writing your monthly invoices. Make sure you communicate with the brewery owners on a daily basis, keeping them up to date with what’s been brewed, whether deliveries have been received or picked up, any beers or supplies you’re running low on, or any other issues that might come up.
Working in a brewery can be immensely rewarding, and it’s by far one of the best jobs we can think of. Yeah, it can be a bit frustrating at times, but then again, who doesn’t like a little challenge? Just keep an open mind, keep learning, and above all, remember to enjoy it all.