Hiring Practices from Southern California Brewmasters

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Craft Beer Los Angeles

Golden Road co-founder Meg Gill joined Kern River brewmaster Kyle Smith at his LA Beer Week fest booth at Union Station.

At the L.A. Beer Week fest on October 23, I asked six of the best Southern California brewmasters, “What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in the brewhouse?”

Aaron Barkenhagen (Bootlegger’s Brewery)

They have to kick ass, basically. We’re a small company and basically we don’t have all the money in the world, so we pretty much look for people that are willing to work their ass off and can keep up with the pace that we’re growing and are willing to put in the extra mile for what we need to have happen.

Mark Jilg (Craftsman Brewing Co.)

Well that’s a really tough question because I only have three employees. Pardon me for hemming and hawing – it’s a very complicated question, and I’m going to be married to these people, essentially. We’re going to work a lot, and I’m going to spend a lot of time with them, so that’s a really complicated question. I want people I can trust. Integrity is something that’s really important to me, and I think if anybody is going to be spending a lot of time with me, they have to share that value. That’s probably the most important thing. The person has to be genuine.

Jeremy Raub (Eagle Rock Brewery)

Obviously brewing knowledge is essential, and even more important than that is if it’s somebody I’d want to sit down and have a beer with.

Kyle Smith (Kern River Brewing)

That’s a funny question because we’re so small it’s basically myself and my assistant brewer. I don’t hire anyone else, but if I were to, it would be somebody who loves to clean.

Dave Griffiths (Ladyface Ale Companie)

Obviously a passion for beer is very important, and to be able to get along with someone is always nice. When there’s tension in the air, it never makes for good beer. In our brewhouse, it’s small enough where there’s only one person. It’s just me, so it hasn’t been an issue yet, but as we grow and bring people in, obviously people who have extreme passion for making good beer.

Victor Novak (TAPS)

Definitely homebrewing experience is the first thing I ask. Have you homebrewed before, because if they haven’t, I make sure that they do. I turned a hobby into a career. I knew that I loved it and had a passion for it, the history, tradition, culture, all that great stuff, but if you don’t like doing it at home, you’re going to hate it in the brewhouse. It’s even more work, working in the brewery, because you’re not just brewing, mashing in, graining out, you’ve got kegs to clean and copper to polish and a lot of the grunt stuff. It really has to be a labor of love, otherwise it’s not going to work for you, and when you start off, you’re not going to make a ton of money. So we all paid our dues at 8, 10 bucks per hour. Yeah, you have to have that dedication of brewing at home, and I want to taste some of it, of course, because if it’s infected and it is simply undrinkable, it tells me their attention to detail may not be there.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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