Making a Career Transition into Craft Beer

How do you execute a major career change? For some people, it's forced upon them through a layoff or other major life event. Some quit their day job and go back to school full-time. I did it gradually - first with no set timeframe for the change, and then with much more focus. When I started this blog I was simply a hobbyist. I'm now well into my transition to the craft beer industry.

Tokens of my two prized beer certifications

I now have two respected beer industry certifications and a part-time job in the field. I'm closing in on finding a full-time position. This has taken planning and hard work. There are logistical things to consider during a career change. Do you have enough savings to tide you over during a period of un- or underemployment? Can you live on a lower salary, if your new career pays less? I was lucky to have savings to fund a period of full-time study. I also made efforts to pay off debt and to manage on a lower monthly income, even before I quit my old job. Here's a timeline of my career change from project management consulting to beer professional.

2013 

  • Downloaded the Untappd app to start tracking my beer drinking. True - I enjoyed craft beer before I started using Untappd, but I credit the app with making my beer journey more purposeful. The quest to earn Untappd badges led me to greatly broaden my horizons. I began seeking out many different beer styles and brews from all over the world. Sure, I'd always been open to trying new and different beers, but using Untappd served to magnify my beer curiosity. 
Beer flight from my travels in 2013; I traveled a lot that year and I can't recall which brewery this was

2017 

  • I had become enough of a beer geek that I decided to start a blog and share my adventures visiting breweries. TheBreweryLog.com was born in October.
  • As an industry outsider, I wanted to prove that I did know a few things, so I earned my Certified Beer Server credential from the Cicerone Certification Program

2018 

  • Beer study and brewery touring continued this year but wasn't very focused.
In 2018 I was on a quest to complete brewery passports; this one is from Dayton,  Ohio, USA as I was visiting Branch & Bone Artisan Ales

2019 

  • Earned my Road to Cicerone Brewing Ingredients & Process specialist badge.

2020 

  • In August I announced on Facebook that I was planning a career change. Many friends stepped up by offering contacts they had in the industry and I still keep in touch with some of them.
  • Took a semester-long undergraduate Brewing Science course at Ohio State University, earning an A.
  • Joined a homebrew club (SODZ) and brewed my first batch of homebrew. 
  • Earned the remaining Road to Cicerone specialist badges for: British & Irish Styles, American Styles, German Styles, Belgian Styles, and Keeping & Serving Beer. 
  • That last topic was a bit of a challenge since I had never worked behind a bar or in a brewery. Two local breweries (Parsons North Brewing Co and Pretentious Barrel House, both in Columbus, Ohio, USA) allowed me to participate in some learning activities such as cleaning draught systems, helping out on brew days, and asking lots of questions. 

2021

  • Judged my first homebrew competition. 
  • It was time to buckle down and really work toward achieving Certified Cicerone®. I quit my day job toward the end of the year. I was now fully committed to the career change. I created an intensive study plan that started in November and would take me through January.
  • Decided to add Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) content to my Cicerone study plan. Since there was a lot of overlap of information, why not work toward both certifications? In December I passed the online BJCP Entrance Exam, the difficult prerequisite to sitting for the tasting/judging exam.
  • Landed a part-time position with Great Lakes Brewing Co as a Brand Ambassador in the Columbus, Ohio market. My first official industry job!
Reppin' Great Lakes at an event for Torchy's Tacos

2022

  • In January I passed my written Certified Cicerone® exam. Then in February I took the tasting exam. That one didn't go so well, but I regrouped, took it again in March and passed. I was now a Certified Cicerone®.
  • Took the BJCP tasting exam in February and learned that I passed in June. I am now a BJCP Certified Beer Judge. This is the highest level I can achieve without taking a difficult written exam and scoring higher on the tasting exam. 
  • Conducted my first paid beer tasting for a client under my brand The Brewery Log. 
  • Joined the Pink Boots Society, an educational association for women and non-binary professionals in the fermented beverage industries. I am on their Education Committee.
Note that my plan was never to become a brewer, but to pursue other roles in a craft brewery. The plan would look a lot different for aspiring brewers. 

So, what's next? I'll be working to update this site for The Brewery Log. I plan to evolve it into more than just a blog, but it's too early in the planning process to share more. I'll keep up my industry education. And of course, I will continue my search for the right full-time opportunity. The future is looking bright for my career in craft beer.


The postings on this site are my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Great Lakes Brewing Co.

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