Germany has an apprenticeship scheme like any other that allows young people to gain work experience, learn on the job and earn a bit of money and a qualification. However, the two unique aspects about the German apprenticeship schemes are the prestige it holds compared to similar schemes in the UK, for example, and the breadth of courses that are available. Apprentices can learn traditional trades, such as carpentry and bricklaying, but also professions such as banker, baker and, the one which I will discuss in the post, brewer.
The intention of this post is to shed a bit of light on the path I have taken over the past few years to become a brewer. This is perhaps relevant for those who are considering starting a career in brewing or for those who may just be curious what I’ve been up to for the past few years.
Brewer and maltster
Duration of the course: 3 years (I completed my apprenticeship in just over 18 months because I was older than my classmates when I started the course and have a University education, albeit in a completely unrelated field).
Salary: Anywhere between €7,000 and €14,000 p.a., depending upon size of the brewery. Salary increases gradually over the course of the apprenticeship.
Programme structure: Brewing science and technology taught at school and hands-on brewing experience gained working in a brewery.
What does brewing theory consist of?
I was a student at the Fritz-Henßler-Berufskolleg brewing school in the class of summer 2018. Each terms lasts 6-7 weeks and is taught full-time at school in Dortmund. This made up for approximately one third of the entire apprenticeship. The course focused upon all key aspects of malt and beer production from growing barley to packaging beer. We also learnt how to commission dispense equipment and how to produce non-alcoholic beer and soft drinks.
We were lucky enough to have a brewery located within the school and a pretty sweet laboratory. Each term we had the chance to brew on the semi-automated 50L school kit under the supervision our superb new brewing teacher, Ben Ott, founder and master brewer at 40ft brewery in London.
Additionally, we learnt how to operate brewery automation simulation software in the IT room, service pumps and valves in the workshop and perform both chemical and mechanical malt and beer analysis in the lab.
Our main resources were “Technology Brewing and Malting” by Wolfgang Kunze and to delve a little deeper “Abriss der Bierbrauerei” by Ludwig Narziß.
What does the practical aspect consist of?
The bulk of the apprenticeship is spent learning how to brew beer in the brewery. I was trained by Fritz Wülfing at Ale-Mania in Bonn. I learnt about all key aspects of beer production and gained most experience in brewing and packaging. In addition to my time spent in the brewery, I also spent part of my apprenticeship on exchange working at Rhön-Malz maltings in Franconia, Laboratus laboratory and yeast bank in Cologne and Sünner Kölsch brewery, also Cologne.
What are the pros and cons of the German brewer apprenticeship scheme?
- A fantastic combination of theory and practice
- Brewers trained in Germany have a good reputation abroad for future career opportunities
- Your education is supported by the German government and your employer. You will not pay a penny for your training. In fact, the great thing is you will actually receive a modest salary during your training.
- Some apprentices are unfortunately exploited by their employer as cheap labour to perform menial tasks, such as sorting empty bottles and monotonous packaging roles
- German is essential, at least to a B2 level
- The theoretical aspect of the course is largely geared towards the mass production of beer, which, whilst interesting, is perhaps not so relevant for apprentices working in smaller breweries
After the apprenticeship
After passing the final theoretical and practical brewing exams and thus completing the apprenticeship, the brewer and maltster has several options on how to proceed from there. Many newly qualified brewers start working as a full-time production brewers with more responsibility on a higher salary. And for those who wish to further their brewing education in Germany, brewers can proceed to become a:
Diplom Braumeister – 2.5 to 4 year University degree in brewing science at TUM Weihenstephan in Freising or at TU Berlin.
Diplom Brewing Engineer – a 3 to 5 year Bacherlor’s or Master’s University degree in brewing engineering at TUM Weihenstephan or TU Berlin. Particularly interesting for those who are looking to start a career in brew plant manufacturing – a sector in which many German companies are highly renowned worldwide.
Braumeister – a 1 or 2 year vocational Master’s course to become a Braumeister at Doemens Akademie in Munich or at the Braumeister school in Ulm.
I would certainly recommend the apprenticeship path to anyone who is looking to start a career in brewing and malting and is interested in German beer culture. It allowed me to learn all about the production of beer, gain brewing experience working abroad and earn enough money to sustain myself.