When Jon enrolled on a postgraduate course in brewing, he knew he was setting himself up for a big change in his life. He had no idea that four years later he would be owning and running a rapidly growing brewery in China
How did you get your job?
After training with Brewlab in Sunderland, UK, I landed my first positions as a brewer in Ohio, USA - Chardon Brew Works, then Cellar Rats Brewery. I got these jobs through networking and a few trial work days before being offered a position.
I then moved to China to open my own brewery with fellow Brewlab classmate Lei. We currently run two breweries and two restaurants, with more on the way.
What's a typical day like as a brewer?
On a brew day, I'll start by arriving at the brewery in the early morning to heat the brewing liquor and begin milling the malt bill for the day's brew. The team of 2-3 brewers will complete the brewing process in about 6 hours, before carrying out a clean-up. In the meantime, there's a lot of side work to do: cleaning fermenters, transferring beer, checking gravities and fermentations, filling and cleaning kegs, and so on. At the end of the day, I'll take care of records and paperwork.
Following a week-long run of brewing, equipment maintenance and fermentation monitoring will be required along with recipe development on the pilot kit. We also host promotional events in the taproom or restaurant.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I really enjoy the creativity involved in the brewing process and the discipline that creates the platform for that creativity. By following best practices and guidelines for quality, I can obtain consistent results and push the limits of my imagination and preferences to continually innovate our product.
The tangible result of brewing a good quality beer and enjoy one after a long day in the brew house is also very special.
What are the challenges?
- Training and maintaining a quality team is always a work in progress.
- Equipment and conditions in the brew house are generally never perfect, so creativity and ongoing preventative maintenance is a must.
- Recipe development and evolving customer preferences will continue to keep the pressure on our ability to come up with new and delicious offerings on a quarterly basis.
How has your role developed and how has your training impacted it?
Thanks to my training in the UK, I was immediately able to set up a lab, improve quality processes, and develop recipes and water profiles that gave a fledgling brewery a new outlook on the market in my first job as a brewer. Brewlab gave me the foundation for everything I've built today.
While moving to Xi'An, China to start a new brewery did seem daunting, the training and resources I received in Sunderland guided me through the tough questions and logistical concerns I encountered everyday.
Now I run two teams of brewers across two brewery locations. I manage the personnel, processes and materials from start to finish.
What advice can you give to others thinking about a career in brewing?
My top three tips are:
- Brewing is not for everyone, but if you're serious about getting into the industry quality training and practical experience is a must.
- Keep home brewing and experimenting even after you start work in a production facility.
- Respect your equipment and remember to stay safe. Being able to work with steam, high-pressure vessels, CO2, and chemicals is worth putting in the extra attention they require.