craft – an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill
apprentice – one who is learning by practical experience under skilled workers a trade, art, or calling
This interview with Ken and Brian Grossman and how they see the lack of craft in craft beer as its biggest threat going forward won’t leave me. As someone who tastes a lot of beer from a lot of new breweries as the primary beer buyer at the bar I manage, I agree with them.
It just seems the basic skills necessary to be a professional brewer aren’t always there.
The idea of apprenticeship and really learning your craft are foreign in these modern times. As a writer, I can tell you, there are hundreds of books that tell you how to be a writer and hundreds of websites and blogs that tell you how to get more traffic on your blog and make money at it. Some of these books and websites are good and encourage practicing the craft of writing and blogging. Most, however, are of the “10 easy step” or “30 days to success” b.s. variety. These books make a lot of money for the writer who wrote them, but not the ones reading it.
The good books about writing may give you some practice ideas and a few tips on technical things, but most of what they will stress is that to become a competent writer first you must read good stuff and then you must write and write and keep writing because it is a skill that must be practiced constantly to hone it.
That is what the Grossman’s were saying. The bar for entry into professional brewing is low and that breeds and idea that it is easier than it is. Too many people who don’t have the baseline of skills jump in thinking they can get rich brewing beer. The first year usually disabuses them of that notion. If the business plan is good enough they might survive long enough for the brewers to get the experience they need to brew consistently good beer.
The newer breweries I like the best and who brew the best beer have two things in common. First, a good business plan. They know where they are going. Second, they all have a brewer who either brewed somewhere else under another brewer for 10-plus years or they homebrewed for 10-20 years and then practiced on their new professional system for 6 months to a year before selling one drop.
Again, I think this is deeper than just brewing or writing. I think there is a lack of respect for skill and institutional knowledge. Having a blog doesn’t make you a writer and having a good homebrew set up doesn’t make you a brewer. No matter how skilled and knowledgeable you are there is always a learning curve when you get any new job. This is especially true of a skill based job like brewing. There are no shortcuts to becoming good at things that require skill. You work. That’s it. I wish more new brewers understood that and that you don’t get second chances. If you don’t make good beer at the start, it is a hard hill to climb to gain drinker’s trust.