A career in brewing

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Kate Jones South African Breweries“Brewing is something you never stop learning.”

Kate Jones

Kate Jones is a Trade Brewer at SAB’s Chamdor Brewery, and has been brewing with SAB for 14 years. She tells us more about a career in the brewing industry.

What is it about brewing beer that made you want to pursue it as a career?

I grew up in Burton on Trent, the UK capital of beer. When I left my studies in biology and microbiology there weren’t many jobs available, and I ended up working at Bass Brewing, in the town, as a lab technician. It was there that I started learning about beer, and found that I was really interested in the subject!

How does one become a brewer, and what are the different types of brewer qualifications?

To start, you would need a science based degree such as engineering, biochemistry, etc. This is obviously important as brewing is essentially a science.

You would then undergo a two year traineeship at a brewery. This would entail practical experience in all aspects of brewing. While undergoing this training you would be required to study and pass your Diploma in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

After two years of training you would then be taken to be “checked out” by a qualified expert. This exam takes place at another brewery, where you’re walked through operations and tested on the spot.  The examination covers theory, practical and tasting.  The check out is done by a panel that consists of the Brewmaster of the brewery, SAB Chief Brewer and the Learning and Development Consultant for Brewing Training.  If you pass this you’re then awarded the qualification of ‘Brewer’.

The next level of experience is a Team leader where your role would be managing a shift team, overseeing brewing operations and gaining more experience. After12 months of practical experience the potential to become a Project Brewer would be the next step before moving into more brewing managerial roles.

You’re also qualified as something called a Master Brewer. Could you tell us more about that?

The Master Brewer’s Qualification is set at the same level of expertise as a Master’s Degree, and is awarded by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, an international body that sets the benchmarks in the brewing industry.

Applicants are eligible to apply for the qualification after several years in the industry at Brewing Area Manager level. You would be required to write an exam covering everything from brewery management to the science and calculations of big batch brewing. It can get quite technical.

You’re mostly based at Chamdor Brewery, and then spend a lot of time in many other places. What exactly is it that you do as a Trade Brewer?

Well, I do a lot of varied things, and only spend about two days a week at Chamdor!

As a Trade Brewer I play a role as the medium between the business side of SAB and the actual brewing of the beer. There are only six Trade Brewers throughout SAB’s South African operations (almost every brewery has one), and we act as the conscience of quality for the manufacturing of the product.

We’re quite involved in the brewing process and quality standards as well as developing new products. I work very closely with the Trade Quality Manger who is more “on the ground” and deals with a lot of the technicalities as well as any complaints. I also visit a lot establishments who sell our products, testing quality and advising on technical issues.

As a Trade Brewer one of my aims is to elevate the positioning of beer in South Africa. So you’ll often find me out and about, presenting at beer tours or food and beer pairing workshops, for example.

We know about the beers that are made at Chamdor from our interview with Danie Odendaal. Can you tell us about some of the people who are involved in the process of making beer?

There are a lot of people, as you can imagine! All split into various teams, each of which is vital. Some of the teams include:

  • Engineering
  • IS (Information Systems)
  • Finance
  • Packaging
  • Utilities
  • And of course, Brewing

 And now for the drinking part: What beers are you enjoying lately?

My “go to” beer is Castle. It has a lovely balance, which I always enjoy.

A beer that has really surprised me, which I am really enjoying, is Flying Fish. It is just so refreshing on a hot day when you come off a golf course. As a brewer, to like something that’s quite sweet and fruit flavoured is surprising, but it’s just a really refreshing drink. And I prefer the orange. I think it’s a little bit more subtle.

Thank you, Kate.

For more on opportunities for a career in brewing, visit our SAB careers page, or our student page. 

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