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Career focus - stirring the pot of beer

By Brenden Nel | 2011-11-15 08:23:17.0

EVER wondered what it would be like to be a brewer, a person who stirs the pot, so to speak, and brings out that thick foamy golden liquid we call beer?

We all love drinking it at times, but what is it like to be a brewer? Brenden Nel caught up with SA Breweries' Kate Jones, who has been a brewer for 22 years.


A brewer is someone who tastes beer and trains others to make it. There are various requirements to become a brewer, which include an apprenticeship of approximately two years.

A trainee brewer can earn around R250000, while a brew-master can earn up to R800000.

Job description

A brewer will primarily ensure that the entire brewing process is under way and runs smoothly.

This includes keeping an eye on every step of the brewing process as well as ensuring quality control at various stages. Kate is now a trade brewer, which in her words, means she is "an ambassador for beer".

"There are only six of us in the country," she says, "and basically my job entails promoting a beer culture and dispelling urban myths and legends about beer.

"We do a lot of educating, whether it is training of waitrons or talking to directors of major corporations and giving them a tour of the brewery. My job entails a lot of educational stuff and promotional events."

Pros and cons of the job

"Well, no day is the same. I think the biggest pro of the job is dealing with different people and meeting new people every day.

That is a real joy of the job and having people feed off your enthusiasm.

"There is a real fascination with brewing beer and I am the type of person who never wants to go off duty. The cons would be long working hours - there simply is no such thing as a 9 to 5 job. You work many evenings and weekends when you do beer appreciation events."

Required studies or experience

For entry as a trainee brewer, you need a graduate degree in science, say a BSc with a focus in either engineering, chemical engineering, microbiology, or physics.

The degree is the primary requirement but once you start your apprenticeship, you are expected to complete the various international exams and to attain the diploma of brewing from the Institute of Brewing.

After a minimum of five or six years, depending on the practical experience and your theoretical knowledge, you can sit for the exam to become a master brewer.

Personality types

You have to be a bit of an extrovert. You have to be able to stand up in a room of 150 people and give a talk.

While you are physically brewing the beer, you need to be focused, have a meticulous ethic and give particular attention to detail.

Brewing is a basic process but you have to be prepared to do it right.


You must be able to communicate at different levels. Speaking to the average public as well as to directors of companies is required.

An average day

There is no such thing as a typical day!

It may be taken up doing trade quality surveys - checking the quality of beer in trade or even training bar-staff.

"Some days we may be running a beer tasting or giving a talk at the Good Food and Wine Show.

"I may be taking interested stakeholders or consumers around the brewery or running our ambassadors' programme for internal staff.

"My job is all about talking to people and educating them about the golden nectar."

Best thing about the job

The fact that every day is different and that I meet a huge range of people - from interacting with consumers in a shebeen to taking a party of directors around the brewery. I have a job that allows me to talk about my favourite passion - beer!

Worst thing about the job

Red tape!

- sacareerfocus