By Bridgette Turner
Pretty much everyone thinks that being a professional brewer is the coolest job ever. It’s a dream job. Everyone I meet is excited when I tell them that I make beer for a living. It’s soOoOoo awesome. Strangers automatically think I’m super cool, and I have a great life. I’ve got it made, and I figured out the adulting stuff. I have a cool job that I love. Yup. That’s true.
Yet, I never voluntarily tell new people about my occupation because people are weirdly intrigued. Everyone likes my job too much, and they want to talk about it more. Once they know what I do, the most popular follow up questions are, “Wow! How did you get into that?” And, “So are you a brewmaster?” Sometimes it’s, “Cool! Do you get to drink beer all day?”
I have several well-rehearsed responses to these questions. My answers depend on the situation, the person asking me the questions, the lunar phase, and how long it’s been since my last snack. No matter what, I’m always nice because pretentious beer people suck, and I usually share a sassy little detail about my brewery life. The sans-sassy answers are, “I used to be a bartender and one day I decided to be a brewer instead.” And, “I would never call myself a brewmaster.” Lastly, “I usually pour myself a beer at the end of the day. But yes, drinking beer everyday is legitimately part of my job.”
After the inevitable and overly-excited Q&As, people want to know more about being a brewer. They especially want to know what brewing is like without XY chromosomes. People seem to enjoy female brewers even more than the typical cis-white-bearded-penis brewers. It’s kind of weird. Is it cool weird? Sure. Did I say penis? Yes. It’s definitely odd to tell the same anecdotes about my job to every new person I meet, but I’m used to it. People are weird and wonderful, and I’m always happy to answer their questions. Even the ones about being a girl.
Unfortunately for all brewers, regardless of their gender identity or zodiac sign, no one ever asks what we actually do at work all day. People think the job is cool, but they have no idea what a glorious shit-show it really is. Try asking me how I spend 8+ hours a day in a haunted warehouse full of stainless steel tanks and brewery hoses. How many spray nozzles and gaskets have I replaced in my life? How do I identify the faint sound of a faulty CO2 connection, and what do I do when every pallet is broken or a stupid size? Why doesn’t anyone manufacture a good squeegee? How often does the production schedule change, and how many colors of dry erase markers do you need to brew quality beer? What’s the best music for canning days, and how long does it take to fold 500-case trays? Do I love my forklift more than my best friend?
To be straight up, brewing beer kind of sucks. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s soul-crushing, back breaking, never ending stress. There’s lots of cursing, tons of self doubt, and sometimes there’s tears and temper tantrums. I’ve seen brewers kick empty buckets and expensive pumps. I’ve seen them silently walk away with rage-face, and I’ve seen them freak out and yell at their coworkers and friends. I’ve personally walked out of a shift and gone the f**k home. I came back the next day, but I can’t count the number of times I wondered if I was really good enough, or capable enough, to do the job. Oddly, this probably rings true for everyone’s occupation.
But I’m just making beer, right? Is it still a dream job? The answer is yes, absolutely. It’s super cool, and I like to think I’m pretty cool too for sticking with it. Turns out, I am capable enough to do this psycho job. Brewing kind of sucks, but I love it. It’s hard, but it’s awesome. I love mopping the floors and taking out the trash everyday. I hate doing inventory, but I love getting grain shipments and eating Nut Rolls. I hate taking gravities, but I love hitting my numbers. I make a barf face at coconut beers, but I still love brewing them because it’s totally fun. I’m dancing on the brewhouse deck and laughing at dumb jokes 99% of every day. Professionally brewing beer is definitely the best job ever, and I wouldn’t change a thing. My job is better than yours. It’s a dream job for sure. 100.
P.S. About that brewmaster question that everyone asks…you can call yourself a brewmaster when the title is bestowed upon you by your fellow brewing professionals. It takes decades of hard labor, proven success, and commendable reputation. I’ve only met one brewmaster in my life, and she was an elderly, jovial nun in Germany. Her name is Sister Doris, and she’s a badass. She told me that her bottling line sucks, but her brewery life is pretty damn good.
Bridgette Turner is head brewer at Mustang Sally Brewing Company in Chantilly, Virginia.