“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Welcome to the updated version of Beer Jobs: The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Craft Beer.
This post was originally published February 16, 2015, and it quickly became the most visited page on this site besides the jobs page.
But after a year, it has become evident that things on the original post were either outdated or missing. So here we are – fresh & improved! Version 2.0 exactly 1 year + 1 day later.
In addition to this Beer Jobs guide, we also have two other beverage career guides that you may be interested in. Please be sure to check out:
- Wine Jobs: A Comprehensive Guide to a Career in Wine
- Coffee Jobs: A Complete Guide to a Career in Coffee
If you’re considering a career in craft beer, you’re likely drawn to it for several reasons. It could be that you just love good, quality beer and want to be a part of making it; it could be partly due to the fact that the craft beer industry represents the antithesis to Corporate America; or maybe to you, the craft beer industry is the American Dream realized.
Regardless of why you’re considering a career in craft beer, this guide aims to help give you some initial direction. In addition to this guide, I have created a Beer Jobs Worksheet that you can download for FREE to use as you organize a job search and map out your craft beer career path.
I hope you find it helpful.
Craft Beverage Jobs
Table of Contents
- Jobs in Production
- Jobs in Sales & Marketing
- Jobs in Hospitality & Education
- Jobs in General Administration
- Jobs in Craft Beer Distribution
It could be argued that the brewing business is the American dream realized. Someone with a passion for beer and brewing can start their own brewery, and with talent, a little luck, and lot of perseverance, can create a sustainable business and livelihood for themselves.
And depending on that individual’s vision, a sustainable brewery business could be one that is solely owner-operated, or it could grow to employ many people.
The beauty of craft beer is also that there are no rules with regard to getting in! Whether your intention is to become head brewer or if you want to design craft beer labels, the craft beer industry tends to celebrate and reward talent and passion just as much as education and experience. If you’re passionate, if you’re open to being taught, and if you’re not afraid of hard work, there is usually a position for you.
Someone who starts out as a cellar intern washing tanks and barrels has just as much of a shot at becoming a Master Brewer as does an award winning homebrewer or someone who graduates with honors with a degree in fermentation science.
Types of Craft Beer Jobs
On a macro level, there are three main categories under which your career in craft beer could fall under:
- working in off/on premise establishments (i.e. at bottle shops, and restaurants – not connected to a brewery)
- working for a distributor
- working at a brewery (production, hospitality, or administration)
If we just look at the brewery level (also referred to as the “supplier” side), there are then an additional four different categories under which your career in craft beer could fall under:
- Production (Brewing)
- Sales & Marketing
- Hospitality & Education
- General Administration & Operation
This guide is going to focus mostly on a cross-section of career opportunities as they relate to working directly with a brewery and the production of craft beer. As with any business, the number of opportunities available at any given brewery will largely be a direct result of the brewery’s size and production level. Many small breweries may be completely owner-operated or have just a few key positions for which they hire for.
Jobs in Production
Internships & Entry Level Positions
A noble place to begin in any brewery is as a intern or in an entry level capacity. The work tends to be hard, dirty, and sometimes tedious. An internship or entry level position is A GREAT WAY, however, to get both working experience at a brewery and your foot in the door towards a rewarding career in craft beer. For the most part, no previous brewery experience is required for these jobs. Some of the various titles and/or duties can include:
- Cellar Work – Expect to do a lot of cleaning in this position as sanitation is a key factor in any brewery. You’ll be washing kegs, changing hoses, and ensuring that things are in place and ready for brewing operations to take place
- Packaging – Getting the beer into vessel – be that can, bottle, or keg for distribution.
- Laboratory & Quality Control Duties – You may be required to do data entry and pull samples in order to assist the brewing team.
The reality is that at most smaller craft breweries, an entry level position
or intern will be required to do a multitude of various tasks to help keep the operation running smoothly. You can expect to work and learn about a lot of various pieces of equipment and brewery functions. You may even be required and/or asked to assist with tours or to conduct tastings in the tap room.
Salary Expectations: Internships are often unpaid as the intention is that you, as a temporary intern, will gain valuable experience in exchange for helping out. If the position is paid, expect to earn around minimum wage. This will vary by location, but as a general rule, entry level brewery production staff will earn $8 – $10 per hour.
Once you’ve graduated from “cellar rat” (a endearing term used to refer to interns and entry level production workers), you begin to enter the ranks of “brewer”. Again, depending on the size of the brewery there may be various positions and various levels of hierarchy among brewers.
Some amount of brewing experience is generally required to be considered for an Assistant Brewing position. This could be any combination of direct cellar experience (see above), homebrewing experience, or brewing education experience.
The Assistant Brewer is a key position in many breweries as this person is usually considered the right-hand person/apprentice to the Head Brewer.
While it may not be your recipes being brewed, the culture of craft beer is very inclusive so your voice and creativity are likely heard. In this role, you should have a firm grasp of all the various operational aspects of brewing, which includes, but is not limited to:
- Brewhouse Operations (Milling, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling, etc)
- Cellar-Related Operations (Sanitation, Fermenting, Monitoring, Capping, Chilling, etc)
- Packaging Operations (Filtering, Carbonation, Packaging, etc)
- Quality Control Operations (Sampling, Testing, and Monitoring, etc)
The role of Assistant Brewer also likely comes with some marketing and staff management responsibilities, so in this position you would have to be comfortable talking about beer and leading a team.
Head Brewer / Lead Brewer / “Brewmaster” / “Master Brewer”
The title Head Brewer tends to be synonymous with “Lead Brewer”, and
These more formal distinctions usually accompany brewers who have both a vast amount of experience and accreditation from respected brewing schools. “Brewmaster” originally was reserved for someone who completed the Braumeister Course in Germany, but the term has been loosely adopted in other circumstances in recent years.
For the larger craft breweries, there may actually be a Head Brewer position and a Brewmaster Position, with Brewmaster being in the top-dog spot.
To become Head Brewer, an individual will require a good amount of experience and talent brewing in a commercial capacity. Experience as a homebrewer usually does not suffice as a short cut to Head Brewer as there are many nuances and differences when brewing in a commercial capacity.
Expect to know how to make, fix, and understand everything as it relates to brewing and brewery operations.
Brewing Salaries: Salaries will vary greatly depending on the size of the brewery and location. Also, there are salary differences between Brewpubs (brewery/restaurant combo) and straight Breweries. Brewer salaries in Brewpubs tend to earn a higher salary than their counterpart at a brewery of a similar size.
- Assistant Brewer Salary Range: $25,000 – $40,000 +
- Head Brewer Salary Range: $45,000 – $80,000 +
FREE DOWNLOAD: to help you organize your transition to a career in craft beer, we have created a Beer Jobs Worksheet that you can download for FREE.
Craft Brewery Sizes
Defined by the US Dept. of the Treasury as “very small brewery operations” that produce beer for sale.
Defined by the Brewers Association as those who produce less than 15,000 barrels per year
Required to sell more than 25% of their beer onsite (Brewpubs generally serve food)
"Regional Craft Brewery"
Brewery that produces between 15,000 barrels & 6,000,000 barrels per year
Other Brewery Production Positions
As a brewery grows in size, job functions tend to be consolidated into individual positions. At the “Regional Craft Brewery” level (15,000+ barrels per year), you’re likely to see these (plus other) specific positions:
- Cellar Manager (one who orchestrates operations) Average $40k/year
- Warehouse & Packaging Operators and Managers Average $25k – $30k/year
- Lab Technicians Average $30k – $45k/year
Jobs in Sales & Marketing
Prohibition officially ended in 1933. In its wake we were left with the “three-tier-system” and a hodgepodge of various states laws that regulate the sale, distribution, and marketing of alcohol. This is because Section 3 of the 21st Amendment declared that the power to control alcohol resides with the states.
As a result, each brewery business will have varying strategies of how they sell and market their product depending on where they are and where and who they want to sell their product to. This will result in different sales and marketing positions having different functions.
It’s a complex, hot mess; this guide is not going to go into detail about the complexities of sales and distribution in craft beer (The Brewers Association is a great resource if you want to learn more), but rather illuminate how positions that market and sell craft beer may be slightly different than sales and marketing positions in other industries.
The popularity of craft beer is very much a local movement. A thriving craft brewer (especially ones who are allowed to self-distribute in their state) may have no problem selling their product direct to consumer (at their brewpub or tap room) and/or to local accounts that they service themselves.
Not every craft brewer has a sales force/team. For these smaller breweries, the outside sales duties may be executed and/or shared among the core team of brewers, owners, and/or managers.
As a craft brewery grows and starts looking outside their local radius for sales opportunities, they may find the need to employe a person or two to work specifically in the market selling and promoting their beer to “on-premise” (restaurant) accounts and “off-premise” (retail) accounts.
These “Sales Representatives” will likely work closely with their distributor counter-part – assisting the distributor who is responsible for executing the sale of the product. This is a result of the Three-Tier-System where in many cases it is prohibited for a brewery to sell their product directly to a retailer or consumer. Sales Representatives typically work from their home office and are on the road much of the time checking in on accounts and ensuring they meet sales goals.
A Sales Representative’s territory and how much they travel is usually dependent on the size of the brewery and number of sales people on the team. You could be one lone road-warrior traveling coast-to-coast establishing a brand’s distribution network, or you could work in your own metropolitan area under the direction of both a Regional and National Sales Manager.
As with all positions at a craft brewery, the salary for these positions vary greatly; they tend to be largely performance based as well – meaning the harder you hustle, the more you get paid. Expect anything from just scraping by to earning a 6-figure salary.
Craft Beer is very popular, and some breweries are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for their product. It seems that craft beer may sell itself, but there is a great need in the industry for marketing professionals. A brand needs an identity, cans and bottles need labels, and someone needs to respond to all the tweets from raving fans.
While marketing of craft beer may seem like a lot of fun, there is also a huge set of complexities associated with it – again a result of prohibition.
There are certain do’s and don’ts when it comes to labels and packaging, and each label has to be submitted to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) for approval. A Craft Beer Marketing Manager needs to be organized and not afraid of paperwork.
There are also laws that prohibit certain kinds of online promotions and there are regulations about what a craft brewer can and can’t share in a social media status update. This requires a creative Social Media manager who can also manage their p’s and q’s when needed.
Some, not all, of the various Marketing positions you may find at a craft brewery are:
- Marketing Manager / Director of Marketing
- Social Media & Digital Marketing Managers
- Compliance Manager
- Communications Manager
- Graphic Designer
Again, it really boils down to the size of the craft brewery with regard to how many marketing positions there are. The smaller the brewery, the more hats any one employee may need to wear.
Jobs in Hospitality and Education
As more tap rooms and brewpubs pop up, there is an increasing need for passionate and articulate people to work in functions of hospitality and education. Beer Tourism is a thing; more and more people are traveling to visit craft breweries so there is also an increased demand for tours and a look behind the curtain. Various positions in hospitality and eduction include:
- Tasting Room Servers / Managers
- Event Managers
- Beer Educators
- Tour Guides
Many of these positions are considered “entry level”, and they are a great entry points into the industry. Even though they are entry level, salaries can end up quite good because the positions tend to be gratuity based.
We recently published a post on just how much craft beer servers can make, which you can read here.
In addition, it is becoming increasingly more common for those working in hospitality and education to be required to become Cicerone Certified Beer Servers (see below).
Jobs in General Administration
The craft beer industry is still young and (almost by definition) is mostly family owned/operated by the company founder. Ken Grossman started Sierra Nevada in 1979 and still leads the company; Jim Koch started and still runs the Boston Beer Company. Craft Beer is unlike wine in this sense; wine, as a more mature industry in terms of years, has many boutique brands who have had generations of leaders come and go.
Although there is that difference, the craft beverage business – be that craft beer, wine, and spirits – shares a unique quality in that even as a business grows and positions expand, the person at the helm usually has a deep love and understanding of production.
A general manager or CEO at a winery usually is also a skilled winemaker, and the person running a larger craft brewery will mostly likely be a very talented commercial brewer. This isn’t always the case in business where business leaders may not be so niche specific in their background or experience.
As the industry of craft beer grows, I envision it resembling the wine industry more in terms of career paths. There will come the day when someone will be able to graduate with an MBA in Craft Beer Business, be a skilled brewer, and work with the intention of running a multi-million dollar business (and perhaps one they didn’t start).
If you want to run a brewery in the near term, your best option is to start one. This is likely the a big contributing factor in the growth in the number of new craft breweries that have come on the scene in the last few years.
Jobs in Craft Beer Distribution
While this guide’s focus is primarily around jobs with breweries, there is a growing demand and opportunity for people who want to work on the distribution side of the Three-Tier-System and focus on Craft Beer.
Not only are larger distributors shifting more of their focus to craft beer, but there are new “craft” specific distributors popping up around the country whose primary focus is to support and sell craft beverage products.
The Massachusetts Beverage Alliance and Kendall’s Pioneer Distributing (Washington State) are two that come to mind. These two distributors focus only on craft brands, and work to help smaller craft brands earn market share. These distributors are hiring! As craft beer grows, so does their business and the need for educated sales and marketing people to join their team.
Craft Beer Resources
Brewing Schools & Continuing Education
As the demand for craft beer has increased, so has both the demand for more qualified brewers and interest in the profession of brewing . This has led to an increase in enrollment at schools and programs that teach and train brewers.
This increase in demand has resulted in long wait lists for enrollment into the more established schools as well as resulted in new programs popping up for those wanting to enter the business of brewing. Degrees in “Fermentation Sciences”, which includes the study of brewing, cheese, bread, and winemaking are increasing in popularity around the country. So are programs focused on educating students in the beverage business and getting individuals prepared to enter the workforce as beverage business leaders.
The Original Three
UC Davis Extension, the Siebel Institute of Technology, and the American Brewers Guild are the longest running and most established brewing schools in the US. These schools have graduated some of craft beer’s most celebrated craft brewers; if you want in, sign up early.
UC Davis – Extension
- Professional Brewers Certificate Program
- Master Brewers Program
Siebel Institute of Technology
- Advanced Applied Brewing Techniques
- Diploma Program
- Master Brewer Program
American Brewers Guild
- Craftbrewer’s Apprenticeship
- Intensive Brewing Science & Engineering (IBS&E)
Other Educational Opportunities in Brewing and Business
Below is a growing list of higher education courses and programs geared towards the fermentations sciences and/or the business of brewing. We will add to this list as we discover more (let us know if we are missing any):
Undergraduate Degree Opportunities
- Appalachian State University – Fermentation Sciences – Boone, NC
- Colorado State University: B.S. in Fermentation Science & Technology – Fort Collins, CO
- Oregon State University: Four Year Program in Fermentation Science – Corvallis, OR
- Middle Tennessee State University – Fermentation Science, B.S. – Munfreesboro, TN
Continuing Education Opportunities & Certificate Opportunities
- American Society of Brewing Chemists, St. Paul, MN
- Master Brewer’s Association of the Americas St. Paul, MN
- Auburn University Graduate Certificate: Brewing Science & Operations – Auburn, AL
- Central Michigan University: Certificate of Fermentation Science – Mount Pleasant, MI
- Central Washington University: Craft Beer Trade Certificate – Ellensburg, WA
- Olds College Brewery: Brewmaster & Brewery Operations Management – Alberta, Canada
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), Brewing & Brewery Operations – British Columbia, Canada
- Oregon State University PACE: Northwest Beer & Cider Sessions – Corvallis, OR
- Portland State University: The Business of Craft Brewing – Portland, OR
- Regis University: Certificate in Applied Craft Brewing – Denver, CO
- UC San Diego Extension: Professional Certificate in Brewing – La Jolla, CA
- South College Certificate in Professional Brewing – Knoxville, TN
- Also offers Business Administration Certificate with Concentration in Professional Brewing Science
- University of Vermont – The Business of Craft Beer Professional Certificate – ONLINE
This list is not comprehensive. There are also more and more community colleges around the country that now offer Associate in Applied Science Degrees in Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation.
Homebrewing is an integral part in the craft beer industry. The American Homebrewers Association has statistics that report that at least 90% of professional brewers began as homebrewers. And as craft beer – the industry – has exploded, so has homebrewing.
The AHA also reports that there are over 1.2 million homebrewers in the US, with two-thirds of that population starting in 2005 or later.
Do you want to work in Craft Beer? A great way to start is to homebrew and join a homebrew club!
Homebrew clubs are a great way to connect you to your local beer community, meet and network in the industry, and learn valuable brewing experience that will help you as you transition to commercial craft beer.
The American Homebrewers Association is really the best resource around to find more information on homebrewing, joining a club, and attending events.
A Certified Cicerone®, as accredited through the Cicerone Certification Program, is to craft beer what a Sommelier is to fine wine.
A Certified Cicerone® is a highly trained and highly skilled professional in the business of beer – namely in the business communicating and sharing the world of beer with others through sales & education.
An individual will need to go through a rigorous training series and need to pass several tests in order to earn the title Certified Cicerone®. The training and tests are meant to refine and develop the person’s palate and ability to discern the nuances in beer through their senses as well as educate them in areas of brewing, beer and food pairing, beer service, beer styles, and ingredients. There are three levels of the Cicerone Certification Program:
- Level 1: Certified Beer Server Exam
- Level 2: Certified Cicerone
- Level 3: Master Cicerone
Level 1 is easily achievable and you can take an online test to earn the title of a Certified Beer Server through the Cicerone program. In fact, this is a growing requirement with many craft beer jobs, especially as they relate to marketing, selling, and educating craft beer.
Level 2 is a much more difficult certification to receive. The Cicerone Program is less than 10 years old, and to-date, there are currently just over 1500 Certified Cicerone professionals world-wide. The program’s 3 hour test requires a serious commitment from the individual in order to pass.
Being a Certified Cicerone will no doubt communicate your passion for craft beer and your commitment to being a steward of beer. Having this level of certification is valuable in almost any craft beer profession, whether you are a brewer, buyer, sales representative, or beer writer.
Level 3, Master Cicerone®, is a level only achieved by 9 people to-date world-wide. Much like the Master Sommelier program, in order to achieve the ranks of Master Cicerone one will need to complete a grueling 2-day exam process.
A Master Cicerone is a true expert in the world of beer; as a Master Cicerone, one may consult, own their own brewery, be an author, or pretty much do anything related to beer that they desire.
Where to Look for Beer Jobs
Ready to start your job search? Great! In addition to networking in your local craft beer community, which is definitely the best way to land a great job in craft beer, there are several online employment sites that will assist you in your search:
- Craft Beverage Jobs – Yes, this is us! Make sure you are subscribed to receive updates on new job openings in your area. It’s free! Subscribe Here.
- Brewers Association – If you are a member of the Brewers Association, you have access to their forum where members list job openings.
- Probrewer – A forum for the brewing industry where employers list job openings.
- Brewbound – Powered by BevNet.
- Craigslist – Great for finding internships and entry level craft beer positions
List of LinkedIN Groups
Even if your daily uniform is Carhartts, steel toed boots, and you sport a beard, you should still have a LinkedIN profile if you want to help yourself land a great craft beer job.
In addition to having a completed profile, you should join a few groups that will better connect you with industry members – and perhaps future employers!
Not every LinkedIN group is created equal. Some are littered with spam, so I’ve gathered a few of the better ones you can join that are related to craft beer:
Books on Beer
There are some great books out there about the world of beer. From homebrewing to the history of beer, there are resources available for the job seeker to learn about nearly any aspect of beer that you want to study. Below is a list that we’ve curated with a slant towards the industry side of things, written by a few of today’s top craft brewers:
Some Closing Thoughts on Getting a Job in Craft Beer
This is a great industry, and there is a great future ahead for the craft beer and the people who work in it.
Jobs in Craft Beer are for people who are creative, driven, and dedicated to doing the best job they can while working with the best group of people they can find. While it’s a casual industry, there are still some formalities and final tips when applying for a job:
- Make sure your resume is current and accurately reflects your job history.
- Write a good and personal cover letter. Need some help on this? Download our free guide to writing an irresistible cover letter (it helps!)
- Are you a brewer? Make sure that the person considering hiring you tastes your beer! Drop off a growler, send them a 6-pack, and/or bend over backwards to make sure they get a sample of what you can do – even if that is your own homebrew and not something you brewed commercially.
- Network! Don’t be shy and put yourself out there. Ask for introductions, attend events, and engage online with your favorite craft brewer. When the time comes to apply for a job, make sure to remind them that they know you.
And Good Luck!
We hope that anyone who wants to work in craft beer finds their dream job working in this wonderful industry. Keep us posted here at Craft Beverage Jobs on your journey, and tell us how it goes.
PS: We created a free Beer Jobs Worksheet that you can download for FREE.
NOTE: We will work to keep this guide as updated as possible on a regular basis. If you find an outdated link and/or feel we missed something, please send us a note to: [email protected]