A CRAFT BREWERY RENAISSANCE
MEETING THE DEMAND FOR CRAFT BREWS IN CANADA
BY JORDAN RAMEY
In 1980, the United States had only 92 functioning breweries; now a new one opens its doors every day. In Canada, we are seeing the same trend. From 310 breweries at the end of 2010, the number has steadily risen to the roughly 450 breweries we see today.
Partly as a result of Prohibition, beer spent much of the 20th century going stale. The industry saw breweries closing their doors. The successful ones bought out their competitors and consolidated. Beer styles died out or, at best, waned, but as the century drew to a close we saw that hope was not lost. A vigorous home-brewing movement across the United States and Canada re-sparked the love affair with full-flavoured brews and began the craft brewery renaissance that we enjoy today.
Today, the craft brewing industry is expanding at an almost inconceivable rate, and the need for skilled workers has never been higher. We are entering a phase of exponential growth.
This increase does not necessarily mean that more beer is being produced and consumed; rather, it points to an increase in local micro- and nano-craft breweries popping up to serve local markets. Following the trend of “farm to table,” folks are more concerned than ever about the origin of their food and drink. Local sells, ingredients matter and the less it travels, the fresher it will taste.
Small-scale operations require more brewers to produce each litre of beer. These small breweries must therefore charge a premium for their hands-on approach to beer production, and people are willing to pay. This increase in breweries, labour requirements and a readily available revenue stream have led to the industry experiencing a shortage of skilled workers.
In addition, breweries are brewing with more malted barley, more hops and more specialty ingredients. The demand for brewing ingredients is higher than ever. Some craft beers will use three times the amount of malt and 10 times the amount of hops as a traditional lager beer. Thus, the growth of the brewing industry is further enhancing the need for high-quality agricultural commodities. To top it all off, almost every small brewery is expanding, increasing production or both. All of these factors combine to brew up an industry becoming increasingly desperate for an influx of new staff to fill current vacancies and anticipated future vacancies.
Breweries don’t simply need brewers. They need scientists to run quality assays and prepare yeast for fermentation. They also need sales and marketing staff to promote their brand in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The need for individuals with industry knowledge and business savvy has never been higher. The number of associated positions for breweries is diverse, including packaging technician, cellarman, brewer, assistant brewer, delivery and bar staff trainer, salesperson, marketer, lab technician, research scientist, operations manager, brewmaster and many others. Enter Canadian brewing institutions to prepare folks for these varied career paths.
The rise in the number of brewing institutions across North America is clear evidence that there is a need for more skilled workers in the brewing industry. Niagara College founded the first Canadian brewing program in 2009, with its two-year diploma in Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management. Olds College acknowledged the industry need and quickly partnered with Niagara College to offer the program in Western Canada, founding a pan-Canadian partnership. In 2014, B.C.’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University launched its two-year diploma in brewing and brewery operations. Finally, Simon Fraser University will be offering a Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials certificate starting in the fall of 2015. Even with the recent rise in brewing diploma and certificate programs, there are still not enough trained workers to fill the industry’s need for new brewers and brewery workers.
The beer is flowing freely, but our thirst is far from slaked. When folks declare there are too many breweries and the bubble is sure to pop, stop and ask yourself, “Has anyone ever said there are too many wineries in the world?” The need for skilled workers will increase, and the need for education is paramount to ensuring that high-quality beer is poured into our glasses.