30 Aug 2011 @ 11:24 AM 
 

Pint/Counterpint Episode #3: Our “Local” Episode

 

Announcing Pint/Counterpint Episode #3 – our “local” episode. In this episode we cover local issues, such as – what does it mean to be a local brewery? Is it using local ingredients, or just distributing locally? We also talk about local talent and that we’re looking for more of it (it’s not what you think!).

As a special guest star you’ll notice my very nervous dog Tessie who decided that the time to wander out of the office and look for comfort was the middle of our shoot. Isn’t she cute? Awww.

Special thanks again to Tres Bruce who continues to make us look and sound sharp.

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Categories: brewery, brewpub, industry, marketing, media, op-ed, video
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Aug 2011 @ 11 24 AM

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Responses to this post » (9 Total)

 
  1. Another great video guys! Eric – I have been following the progress of the brewery, so congrats!

    The two of you bring up an interesting issue concerning the talent “gap” as it was referred to. I definitely see what you are getting at, as there are a ton of great homebrewers and people ripe for entry-level brewing jobs, but there is not a good way for them to continue to learn and move past that point other than through getting a job at one of the small craft breweries, which is very hard to do because of the limited size of most of the breweries in NC.

    However, you both stopped short of proposing any sort of solution to this problem. I would love to hear your input on how you think this problem can be addressed? Is it the breweries responsibility to help these people out, or does there need to be some other sort of class similar to Davis or Siebel that takes these new craft brewers and helps bring them to that next level? Or is it a combination, or something totally different?

    Keep up the good work, and we look forward to the opening of Mystery in the near future!

  2. erik says:

    Hey hey —

    Not providing solutions might be our major failing, but I don’t think that either of us see this as a way to provide solutions so much as a way to create (and have) open discussions.

    That said! In NC our main problem is lack of personnel. There aren’t enough experienced brewers in the state to make up the number of jobs that we have opening up in the state. There are a LOT of people moving from one brewery to another within the state as different breweries grow, but ALL of our breweries are growing which means we can do one of two things:

    1) Hire inexperienced people and train them in some sort of guided apprenticeship program.

    2) Hire from out of state.

    #2 is a problem because this same thing is going on throughout the entire country. 300+ breweries open per year mean that anybody with decent experience is going to some place that needs them and the small breweries who need someone beyond the owner/brewer have zilch.

    So – yes, I think a mid-level program between the “short course” and the “long course” at the brewing programs probably wouldn’t hurt. Not long ago short-courses used to come with hands-on experience built in, but they no longer do, primarily because of the number of people that are going through them. But the other thing I think that needs to happen is to encourage homebrewers who want to make the jump to get into the industry to not to start their own business but let them know that there’s a way to work at a brewery without having to create one from scratch.

    I mean.. I’m guilty of doing exactly that, but I can see where what we need is more workers, rather than more owners. :)

    Stepping back a bit – the main problem here is that nobody goes to college to become a brewer, because it is not a legitimate career choice out of high school. You can’t legally drink, and you have no way of experiencing craft beer in any sort of responsible environment, so tailoring a college education to a brewing career – like you might be able to do in other countries – is just not really possible. People are making the jump to the industry a little later in life (though sometimes not that much later), which means that they have to worry about paying bills, health care, families, etc., etc., which makes taking a long course program difficult unless you are wealthy or at the PERFECT place in life for it.

    I’ll alert Sebastian to this and see if we can get his response, as well.

    • seabass says:

      Pint/Counterpint is a format where raising issues or bringing them to a wider audience much more than offering solutions, no doubt about that.

      I am not sure how to organize the training as on top of the owner/brewmaster problem there is a major time shortage as most of the brewers who do well cannot make enough beer. So many are in a tigh production schedule. Like I am where there is not
      much room in the day besides on the job training and even though I would be able to provide basic training along with working at the brewery = apprenticeship I am struggling to get the learning part going with a comprehensive approach.

      My vision incorporates a learning set up that involves multiple breweries and each provides both brewers and content to make it more complete.

  3. [...] friend Erik is starting a brewery and has been doing a series called Pint/Counterpint about the process of running a local brewery. Someday I will make it down to North [...]

  4. Erik, Sebastian,

    Thanks for the insightful comments. I totally understand that it’s not your job to find solutions in these videos, but I was just interested in hearing what the two of you might suggest. Thanks for taking the time to write back!

    That being said, after reading your comments, you bring up some really great points about getting the eager yet inexperienced homebrewers some real hands-on experience in a brewery to train more in-state talent. It is very difficult for a home brewer to make the time to attend one of the long courses.

    Just throwing this out there, but if this is an area that you guys would like to look more into, I think that it would be a pretty cool idea from both sides if there were an organized program in NC to get homebrewers that are interested in brewing professionally into a local brewery and get some experience, and it would let the breweries get to know some of the interested homebrewing talent in the state. I have not given any great amount of thought to this, but there may be a door there we could open. Possibly somewhere the NC brewers guild could step in and help coordinate. Again, just an idea. This is definitely a very interesting topic. Thanks again for providing some great insights, as always!

  5. erik says:

    Well, as a counterp(o)int, trust me when I say that there is no lack of any homebrewer interest in getting into a brewery.

    I don’t go a week without getting at least one e-mail, phone call, or visit from a homebrewer who is looking to work for me. It’s great – and someday I’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of those offers, but here are some hard facts:

    – I can’t take random help. It’s a liability to have someone working for me without pay. It’s dangerous work. There are acids, caustics, steam, hot water, high pressure sharp edges, etc., so I’m not always crazy about having random untrained people around, especially one that doesn’t fall under my insurance.

    – I can’t take randomly timed help. People want to come in after work or on the weekends or something like that – but that’s not when I am working at the brewery, that’s when I’m doing events or mowing my lawn or seeing my wife. So in order to take help from the community I need people that can commit regular hours during the work day and enough hours to actually get some work done. An hour here or there isn’t help to me (nor is it educational to someone else).

    – For the most part, I don’t really have extra time for training. I’m working my ass off to get stuff done as it is, every minute that I’m spending teaching somebody how to do something is time that I’m not spending doing something else.

    Now, this all changes a little bit now that I have somebody working full-time for me, since we can split tasks like volunteer management and good stuff like that (and it’ll change more and more as the brewery grows), but I think it’s worth people to think about as they contemplate entrance into the industry.

    I think a lot of homebrewers say – Oh, I’ll go talk to the small new brewers to help. They NEED help and I might be able to get into a position that way, but to be quite honest I’m much less likely to have time to deal with volunteers – especially people I don’t already know – and much more likely to want to hire somebody with prior brewery experience, just so that there’s a shorter learning curve. It’s easier for me.

    A lot of larger breweries have opportunities to go in and volunteer – on the bottling line, cleaning kegs, etc. – and they’re much more accessible than small startups. That said, the first item on my list there can’t be stressed enough: it’s dangerous work and having somebody around that isn’t an employee is a big liability.

    I can say that, “Oh maybe the Guild should publish these kinds of opportunities so that people know about them” but I bet that most of the breweries with these opportunities already have a LOAD of people who are waiting in line to do it.

    ….

    I sound like I’m being really negative, but really I just want to make sure I inject a little reality into the proceedings. We need good experienced people in the market, but training in-house is really kind of a pain in the ass. It’d be much nicer to know that there was a decent external source. I’d like, at some point, to have an apprenticeship program at Mystery, but I’m years away from even beginning to make that happen.

    • That absolutely makes a ton of sense. And definitely needed to be said. However, I guess I didn’t articulate very well what I had in mind. Again, this may be a totally stupid, but maybe worth discussion.

      If there was an organized 3rd party that could put together a list of opportunities for homebrewers and breweries and get them matched up with what they each needed, it could reduce the amount of “random” help you mention and the volunteers that only swing by for an hour here or there on nights and weekends.

      If you could say, I’m really going to be swamped next month because we’re getting in a bunch of deliveries and we need to get a ton of beer produced by the end of the month. It would be great to bring someone on that could be here 3-4 hours every Tues and Thurs morning for the next 3 weeks. Then that info could be relayed to those interested in helping out with this sort of work and you could be matched up with a single person who could be there on that regular basis and you could both gain something out of it.

      Again, this does not solve the original issue of there just not being enough qualified and well-trained brewers in the state to meet the growing demand. But it is an interesting side note nonetheless, as I know (and you do as well) that there are a lot of homebrewers that would love to get some hands on experience in a small brewery. Whether or not this leads to more trained brewers or not is another question.

      • seabass says:

        We are going a bit in circles here. The point of the discussion was exactly what you put forward here. Bottom and entry level brewers
        are there. And all this help gets organized depending on how a brewery is set up. Minimum wage, volunteers… Part time, full time.

        The talent gap is more precisely where it does not help to get trained up. You need to be trained higher and trade down so that the lead brewer knows maintaining and expanding the whole facility, not just brewing beer.

        All I am focused on as a director of operations is keeping the brewery in production, that is fixing equipment, replacing underperforming components… Making sure that the brewers can brew and package the highest quality beer possible in the given setting.

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