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Road Trip Blog (for live reporting from the road).
Trip departure was June 4, 2007.
Return to Eugene was October 20, 2007.
Total Length of Trip was: 139 days (4 months + 19 days).

Definition of the Title "Brewmaster"

A dialog occurred on the BA Forum in May 2006. I jumped into the middle of it. Below are my two posts on the subject. Your opinions may differ! (Names and places have been changed.)

RE: Brewmaster Title.

Dear Forumites,

It appears there's lots of room for opinion on this one, so I'll throw in mine.

To me a Brewmaster is the person who knows more about brewing and has more brewing experience than any other brewer who works for the company. That's what I learned at Triple Rock in Berkeley when I was getting my professional start. The owner kept the title, "Brewmaster" because indeed, he had more brewing experience and knew more about brewing than I did. At Triple Rock I was the head production brewer, and my title was "Head Brewer."

When I came to Steelhead in 1990, I took the title of "Brewmaster" for myself. That is still my title, although my job description has stretched well beyond my original job requirements. Each of our Steelhead locations has a "Head Brewer" on site, and they all report to me. Any brewer below them is called an "Assistant Brewer," unless they are only involved in keg washing, where their title would be "Keg Washer." (I am not only Steelhead's Brewmaster, technically I am also the Head Brewer in Eugene.)

I'm still the one who has the highest combination of brewing knowledge, brewing experience, and brewing education than anybody else who works for Steelhead. If I went to work for a national brand, like Anheuser Busch, then I would no longer be a Brewmaster. Why? Because I would no longer be THE Brewmaster. In my opinion there is only one per company. Does A-B have more than one Brewmaster? I don't know. Ask BuschBoy: Does A-B have more than one?

So what do you call a brewer in a one-man brewery? In my opinion, she or he has the right to call herself the "Brewmaster." Is she really qualified for the title? You'd have to taste her beer, walk through her brewery, watch her work, ask about her brewing philosophies, and judge for yourself. Some solo-brewers are truly Brewmasters, and some are not.

I've met a lot of professional brewers who are anything but professional in their demeanor, work habits, skill level, and quality and consistency of their beers. To me these brewers are glorified homebrewers having fun on a big system. Would I want to hire them to be one of our Head Brewers? No. They don't come up to the level of professionalism that I (Steelhead) require. Do their customers love their beer? Undoubtedly. These glorified "professional" homebrewers can have successful careers. If they are open, they can also learn from their professional peers and grow into being true Brewmasters for their employers. Some are more interested in playing, and will never be "Brewmaster" material no matter what their title is.

For the record, I hate the title "Brewmistress" for a woman brewer. Culturally and historically a "mistress" always had a "master" who was above her and ruled her. Therefore the title of "Brewmistress" implies that somewhere hidden in the back room there must be a "Brewmaster" who is really in charge. In most people's minds (based on cultural and historical conclusions), that person would undoubtedly be a man.

I can't tell you how many customers over the years told me, "Sure, you're the Brewmaster, but who's really in charge back there?" I don't get that question anymore. Maybe those dinosaurs are dead.

The title "Brewster" doesn't work because 99% of the population doesn't know what it means.

I am not just a Brewer: I'm in charge of the Brewers. When it comes to the beer, I'm the bottom line: I take the heat from the owners when something in the brewery (or with the distributors, etc.) goes wrong.

I am the Brewmaster, and damn proud of it. I earned the title the minute I began my job at Steelhead 16 years ago when they put me in charge of installing the brewery, working with contractors, hiring an Assistant Brewer, finding suppliers, developing recipes, writing beer menu descriptions, training brewers, and running the whole beer show.

The owners of Steelhead don't know how to run a brewery. They rely on me. I am the Brewmaster. I don't let them down.

Cheers, Teri

RE: Brewmaster Title

> Teri, certainly you're not suggesting that because someone brews at home,
> they are automatically unprofessional? Of poor demeanor, work habits,
> skill level, and quality? I'm always appalled by the way some folks use
> the phrase "home brewer" as a pejorative.


Hi TopHomeBrewBoy,

Certainly not! Glad my posting generated some controversy (always a good sign).

I have been a dues-paying member of the Cascade Brewers Society homebrew club in Eugene for 16 years, and was a member of the San Andreas Malts of San Francisco before that. I and 3 out of the 5 brewers who work for me began our careers as homebrewers.

I practically forced my newest assistant brewer to homebrew by driving him to the homebrew store, picking out what he needed, lending him equipment, and designing a simple recipe for him to use. I have turned many people on to homebrewing, and I am a big supporter of the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), encouraging our assistant brewers to take the exam, and requiring it of my Head Brewers as a condition of their employment.

Starting out as a homebrewer gives any professional brewer wannabee the leg-up on understanding brewing science, techniques, equipment, industry buzz words, and gives them tremendous hands-on experience. There are members of the Cascade Brewers Society who are better brewers than some professionals. They only choose to remain homebrewers because they don't want to take the pay-cut that going pro could require of them.

However, you must remember that the objectives of a homebrewer and a professional brewer are completely different from each other. Ultimately, a homebrewer's main objective is to push the cutting edge of beer recipes and styles by creating amazingly distinctive and delicious beers unlike any beer you could buy. A professional brewer's objective is to look to the homebrewer for inspiration, and then create interesting beers that merely nudge the envelope (in comparison).

Beyond that, the two most important professional brewer's objectives are (1) Create beer that is sales-worthy (meaning, that a customer is not only likely to return and order the same beer, but is likely to order a second pint during the sitting); and (2) Create beer that tastes the same or nearly the same, the next time the customer returns to order that beer.

A homebrewer doesn't have to (and shouldn't ever) worry about the two main professional objectives: that of sale-ability and of consistency. As for sale-ability, that objective is antithetical to pushing the envelope of cutting edge recipe design. As for consistency, when I was a homebrewer, I doubt I ever made the same recipe twice, and if I did, I sure wasn't trying to get the same effect!

Some of our assistant brewers still homebrew, and I know many other professional brewers who still homebrew. One brewing friend, professionally employed as a brewer since 1989, works on his "big" system all week, then brews the equivalent of 5-gallon test batches at home on weekends. Those test batches may or may not make it to the "big" system, depending on how those beers qualify toward the professional brewer's two main objectives.

I tell my brewers, "If you want to make a 'Lemon-drop Raspberry Ginger Jalapeno Peat-smoked Chocolate Stout,' then you'll have to do it at home." I am requiring my newest assistant brewer (newly promoted from one year of strictly keg washing) to brew at home. I've suggested it nicely since January, but because he'd seen what we did in the brewery, he wanted to make it too complicated. As mentioned, I had to "force" him by driving him to the homebrew store. He's now brewing from extract, loving it, making mistakes (and learning from them), and making his very own beer. He's ecstatic. I can think of no better and faster way to bring him up to speed in a professional environment, than by giving him the "homework" of homebrewing and reading homebrew books.

There is one more objective common to both homebrewers and professional brewers. It is important to both, but it is imperative that professional brewers follow this shared objective: To have "clean" or "bacteria-free" beer. Not all professional brewers can claim to have this state of freedom in every tank, but it is an objective that every professional brewer must take seriously, no matter what the scale of the commercial brewpub or microbrewery.

When I spoke of "glorified homebrewers having fun on a big system," I meant professional brewers who do not respect nor follow the professional brewer's two main objectives of beer sale-ability and consistency, and who are guilty of not taking the final objective of "clean, bacteria-free beer" seriously enough.

Thank you for allowing me to clarify my original post!

Cheers, Teri


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