This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Brewers use science and brewing equipment to convert malted barley or other grains into beer, and do a variety of tasks in the production and packaging of beer.
Brewers usually earn
$33K-$60K per year
Pay for brewers varies depending on experience and location.
- New brewers usually earn minimum wage to $40,000 a year.
- Brewers with five years' experience can earn up to $60,000.
- Head brewers, who run the business and manage staff, can earn up to $120,000.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Brewers may do some or all of the following:
- select and check the type of malted barley or grain needed to make a brand of beer
- add hops, yeast, hot or cold water and other ingredients at the correct times
- operate computerised machinery that controls the brewing process
- monitor the temperature, acidity, fermentation and colour of beer throughout the brewing process
- sterilise and maintain brewing equipment
- package beer and deliver it locally
- monitor the costs of production, do stock counts, and order ingredients
- manage a team of brewery workers.
Skills and knowledge
Brewery workers need to have knowledge of:
- chemistry, microbiology and biology, to understand the technical and scientific processes that produce beer
- the raw materials used in brewing (such as yeast and types of malted barley)
- hygiene and sterilisation methods
- brewery machinery and technology, including ability to do basic repairs
- methods of quality control.
Brewers should also know about food hygiene regulations, and in large plants some knowledge of industrial law is useful.
- usually work regular business hours, but may do shift work and weekend work
- work in laboratories, brew houses, brewpubs or small craft breweries
- work in conditions that can be hot, cold, noisy or wet, and may also be required to work in enclosed spaces such as tanks or brewing vessels
- may travel overseas for training, and to visit other plants if they work for large organisations.
What's the job really like?
Tracy Banner - Brewer
Tracy Banner is justifiably proud of being the first woman head brewer in New Zealand. "It is an amazing career and I've enjoyed every single minute of it."
Science qualifications gained while working
"At 16 I started working in the laboratory of a local brewery, while studying towards a National Certificate in Science. In eight years I went from being a lab technician to a supervisor."
Now a brewery manager for a large brewery, Tracy loves everything about her job. "I like making something where I can see the end point."
Making beer is a step-by-step process
"It's probably just as well that I'm passionate about my job because it's quite challenging. It's essential to ensure consistency in a beer, so we have to monitor the brewing process a lot – we go through about 140 steps! Everything needs to be signed off before the next step in the process. We also work to tight deadlines because when a beer is brewed and it is in a tank, we give ourselves just two hours to do the analysis and make sure everything is okay."
- The opportunity to work your way up into senior roles in a brewery.
- Applying scientific knowledge in a practical way.
- Sometimes having to work in enclosed spaces, and wet, noisy conditions.
- Working long shifts.
Harrison learns about becoming a brewery worker - 8.05 mins (Video courtesy of Dave Mason Productions)
Clinton: And introducing Harrison to the Brewing aspect of the job will be Natasha O’Brien, DB’s senior Project Brewer.
Natasha: The history of DB Breweries is that we’re been brewing on this site since 1929. The operation has since expanded out into four breweries that operate around the country. We’ve got two modes of fermentation here – we have continuous fermentation which was pioneered by a great man called Morton Couttes – it’s extremely rare worldwide, and we also use traditional batch methods of fermentation, which is what I’m going to take Harrison through today.
Natasha: Harrison, let’s investigate the malt.
Natasha: All malt is not created equal, so you get different types of malts and you get a whole multitude of flavours coming out of the malt so have a taste.
Harrison: It really tastes like a malt biscuit.
Natasha: Yeah! A malt biscuit, yeah.
Natasha: So these quite often are used for your lighter lager type beers, and then if you try this one on the other hand, it’s like burnt coffee isn’t it?
Natasha: It’s so different isn’t it?
Harrison: That is actually really dry!
Natasha: This type of malt is used for your darker beers and stouts.
Clinton: Natasha now takes Harrison off to the Brewhouse to see the next, and essential stage in the brewing process.
Natasha: This part of the process is just purely concerned with making a sugary liquid for the yeast to feed on, and that’s all the brewhouse does.
Clinton: The liquid is created when the malt or malted barley is mixed with heated water in the mash tank – converting the starch into sugar.
Natasha: So we’re just going to do a simple conversion test, so this is what brewers do the world over to make sure we’ve got all our starch converted into our sugar. So we’ve got our mash sample here which we’ve put into the dish and what we’re going to use is iodine, so if it’s unconverted and we drip it in there, you’ll see it go black.
Natasha: If people are interested in scientific processes then brewing has got it all really. It’s what I love about it – it’s not only an occupation to be a brewer, it is also a craft.
Natasha: You can see straightaway it’s turned black so there is still starch there. It’s unconverted so where going to need to leave it in the mash tank a little bit longer.
Clinton: Once the starch is converted, the ‘wort’ is filtered, then boiled to sterilise it and drive off any unwanted flavours, before the hops are added.
Natasha: The hops are really essential to the brewing process. The aroma hops that we’re going to put in it now give the aroma in the beer so just have smell.
Harrison: It smells a bit like something you would cook with.
Natasha: Yeah, it adds the spice to the beer. The malt is the body and the soul, the hops are the spice, so they give those nice zesty aromas. So if you want to weigh out 2.7kg.
Natasha: There’s a variety of parts in the brewing process – you could do what I’ve done and study in a science or engineering capacity.
Clinton: At an entry level, employees can be introduced to the basic skills and knowledge behind the brewing process through on-the-job training from people like Natasha.
Clinton: The wort is cooled, yeast added and the fermentation process begins.
Natasha: It’s a month later, we’ve finished our fermentation, it’s now starting to look a bit more like beer.
Clinton: Next step - filtration.
Natasha: So we’re all suited and booted. Let’s go make up the DE ready for the filtration.
Clinton: DE is Diatomaceous earth– which helps draw off the yeast.
Natasha: So the skills you need for brewing are strong drive for quality – we’re wanting to make a quality product, you also want to be a fast, effective decision maker because it’s a fast-paced environment out there and you also need to be quite flexible and move with the process.
Natasha: We’ve finished filtration, we’ve taken the yeast out, let’s have a look at our finished product.
Natasha: It’s looking pretty good isn’t; it? We’ve got nice brown, bright beer. A good head retention, good clarity, the filtration has been good. Now let’s just check the carbon dioxide content to make sure it’s good for packaging.
Natasha: Ok, 2.83, that’s good. That’s’ great for packaging. Let’s go.
Clinton: Chris Heketoa, DB’s Staff Development Coordinator will be showing Harrison the Packaging lines.
Chris: Here at DB Waitemata, we have four lines – two glass lines, one keg line and one canning line.
Clinton: The empty bottles are un-crated and fed onto the conveyor.
Chris: Approximately 23,000 bottles per hour or roughly 380 bottles per minute.
Clinton: All of which are filled with beer and capped.
Chris: This is my home ground here in packaging. I started as an operator, packaging technician back in 1997. I then went on to be the supervisor of the glass lines and the can lines and sent about 3-4 years doing those jobs and more recently moved into the training coordinator role and now I look after training for the whole of the supply chain with DB.
Clinton: This machine automatically lines up the filled bottles for labelling. After the bottles are put into packs, they head off to be stacked and wrapped.
Clinton: So how did Harrison go over the past couple of days?
Natasha: Personally I’ve loved showing Harrison the brewing process. He’s been really keen, he’s been interested and he’s asked some really intelligent questions.
Chris: I thought that he handles the jobs and the activities that we gave him really well.
Harrison: The parts of the job that I really enjoyed were the environment – everyone was really friendly and keen to help me out with stuff that I never knew, and all the robots – they’re pretty cool!
Clinton: To become a brewery worker, an interest in beer and technology is a great start. Useful subjects include maths, English, computer studies and sciences, especially Biology and Chemistry. Employees will learn the fundamental skills and knowledge on the job and from there can progress to higher roles with the National Certificate in Food and Related Products Processing as the training pathway. Unit standards, specific to brewing and packaging processes can be selected.
Entry requirements for brewers
To become a brewer you need to have a degree in one of the following subjects:
- food science or technology
- chemical or process engineering.
To gain further qualifications, such as Master Brewer (MBrew), you must be a member of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling to sit the required examinations, and have relevant experience.
Entry requirements for brewery assistant
To become a brewery assistant you need at least three years of secondary education. Useful subjects include maths, English, digital technology and chemistry.
While working, brewery assistants may gain:
- national certificates in food and beverage manufacturing, or in mechanical engineering through Competenz
- certificates or diplomas in brewing or beer packaging through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling
- entry level to expert certification in beer sales and brewing through the Institute of Beer.
- Competenz website - information on food and beverage manufacturing, and engineering qualifications
- Institute of Brewing and Distilling Asia Pacific website - information on brewing courses
- Institute of Beer - information on training courses for beer professionals
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include NCEA Level 3 chemistry, biology and maths.
Brewers need to be:
- able to take initiative
- practical and efficient
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- patient and reliable
- able to work well in a team
- skilled in communicating with others
- good at solving problems.
It is essential to ensure consistency in a beer. So we have to monitor the brewing process a lot – we go through about 140 steps!
Tracy Banner - Brewer
Useful experience for brewers includes:
- work in a factory, laboratory, brewery or winery
- dairy technology, food processing or production work
- work with machinery.
Brewers need to have good hand-eye co-ordination and be reasonably fit and strong, as they may need to lift kegs or other heavy objects.
Brewers must also be comfortable working in confined spaces.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
- Institute of Brewing and Distilling - Asia Pacific
- email@example.com - www.ibdasiapac.com.au
What are the chances of getting a job?
Steady growth in brewer numbers overall
The number of workers at breweries that produce mainstream beer is continuing to drop due to increased automation and falling demand. However, the number of craft breweries is growing to meet increasing demand in New Zealand and overseas for craft beers so increased production is creating more brewer, assistant brewer and brewery assistant jobs.
Increase your chances of finding a job as a brewer
Increase your chances of finding a job as a brewer by:
- directly approaching breweries
- showing your interest online in forums for brewers, such as on the Brewers Guild or Real Beer websites
- having a basic knowledge of chemistry, biology and physics, and engineering
- being prepared to work up the ranks, for example from brewery assistant to brew team leader
- completing brewery certification.
Two main employers of brewers
Many brewers work for the two main breweries, DB and Lion Nathan.
- DB has breweries in Auckland, Manawatu, Greymouth and Timaru.
- Lion Nathan has breweries in Auckland, Canterbury and Dunedin.
Brewers also work for smaller breweries throughout New Zealand.
- ANZ Craft Beer Industry Insights, 2016, (www.anz.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Scoop, 'Craft beer pours on more heady growth', 10 August 2016, (www.scoop.co.nz).
- van Venrooy, C, executive officer, Brewers Guild of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2017.
Progression and specialisations
Brewers in large brewery companies may specialise in one area of the brewing industry such as production or laboratory work.
Last updated 6 June 2017