Beer: Ever Thought About More Than Just Drinking It?

If your passion for beer goes past a few pints down at your local pub, a career in brewing could be for you. About 25 million pints of ale, lager, and stouts are produced everyday across the country. Dark, fruity or even blonde types are available, so there is definitely something out there to tickle your fancy. Companies like Carling, Foster’s and Guinness produce some of the most popular brews to be decanted into the glasses of eagerly waiting customers. Leading up to the sale of a pint is a long delicate brewing process, creating what is almost a work of art, with necessarily perfect precision. Everything must be timed carefully.

To start off, the brewing process requires malted barley or another type of cereal (depending on the brand). This is mixed with water and hops (interesting piece of information — hops and cannabis come from the same plant family!) and then cooled and fermented with yeast. Which type of yeast is used is determined by the brewers, and can affect whether you get a lager or a stout. The fermentation process ultimately converts the sugars within the barley into alcohol.

Some beers, like draught beer, a popular choice for ale drinkers, don’t store very well and need to be constantly monitored to maintain their quality. However, the highly distributed bottled and canned beers of the everyday supermarket can be stored without any fear of deterioration.

As already mentioned, Britain is a high consumer of beer, but to the credit of many beer connoisseurs across the country, the British consumer demands high quality. To brew and produce both quality and quantity, a specialised team of highly skilled individuals are needed. Graduates with degrees in biological science, microbiology or chemical engineering are qualified to enter into this industry, which is in a constant race to provide a great product in a limited amount of time. But there are also many post-graduate research opportunities in the brewing sector; some, such as a Diploma or Masters in Brewing, Distilling or Packaging are offered right here at the University of Nottingham.

So, what career prospects are available within the mammoth that is the beer industry for someone with a science degree? First off, there is the role of the technical brewer. Technical brewers are in charge of the entire beer production process; they are responsible for the raw material from which the beer is made, the condition and smooth running of the plant and the equipment, while also managing the operators and the technicians. One of the major tasks of the technical brewer is to make sure that the taste, strength and appearance of each batch of beer remains consistent. This involves monitoring the production process at regular intervals, testing samples and making adjustments where necessary.

Engineering Management is another career path available to a science graduate. This includes managing the engineering maintenance of production plants, as well as high-speed packaging lines for kegs, bottles and cans. Much of this job involves the preparation and administration of maintenance budgets and the training and motivation of a team of specialist craftsmen. Maintenance Engineers work closely with plant managers so that the production schedules are met.

Interested already? Well, even if you aren’t, the next time you’re sipping a pint on a warm summers evening, just think about the complex process behind the refreshing accompaniment to your packet of crisps. It makes you appreciate it so much more!

Sarah Greenidge

One Comment
  • Mark Given
    11 June 2011 at 08:11
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    I work for Heineken UK and enjoyed reading an article very much, thank-you for taking an interest in our industry.

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