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A brewer’s life: a learning experience in process technology

At the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), I collected quite a few visiting cards – they come in all shapes and sizes, are printed on different kinds of paper, and their designs represent the entire gamut of contemporary graphical trends. One card I found particularly arresting: it reads “Adam Draeger – Professional Brewer – Amateur Father”. And I remember a long, amusing and inspiring conversation with Adam Draeger on Krones’ stand at the Brew Expo.

For the brewer from Yak & Yeti in Colorado, it was already his third CBC. “My first show was in San Diego. The Expo was about half the size, every year there are a lot of new vendors and new suppliers“, he relates. There are, of course, lots of after-show parties and all kinds of extracurricular stuff, but his favourite part of the event is still the conference itself. “It costs me about 800 dollars to come here, which I can’t recoup in free drinks and samples, so I really have to take some added value in the form of knowledge home with me!” And indeed – both the Brew Expo, and the presentations at the conference are meeting Adam’s expectations. “The Brewers Association is doing a pretty good job with the organisation, that starts with the exhibitors and the speakers, and finishing with the fact that there aren’t any queues at the Food Court – it’s all running smoothly. When they get the ambience right, of course, it’s easier to look around, make new contacts, and learn some useful stuff.

Learning is a crucial issue for Adam – back in 2000, he started to brew his own beer at home, and finally found he wanted to take his hobby to a new level. “I took part in the joint programme of the Siebels Institute in Chicago with Doemens – and then I also spent 6 weeks with Doemens in Germany – which is how I came to know Krones as well,” says Adam. “I’ m really glad of my solid training, because here in the USA there aren’t any proper apprenticeship schemes – the usually way is for knowledge to be passed on from brewer to brewer. That’s also very valuable, of course, but practical knowledge combined with solid theoretical training is very, very valuable!” Whereas in Germany for example “brewmaster” is a title you have to earn by a sandwich course and then attending a vocational college, in the USA anyone who brews beer can call himself a brewmaster. A home brewer is a brewmaster too. “The theory behind the process technology, in particular, was a revelation for me!” This knowledge proved a huge help when he was job-seeking.

“When I moved to Colorado after my training I pretty soon fund a job as a brewmaster – and meanwhile I’m even working for two breweries, which is probably something you don’t hear all that often!” With his ceaseless quest for more knowledge, and his solid qualifications behind him, Adam is confident about his future. “In Colorado, particularly, we’re seeing more and more breweries – they’re springing up all over the place – but they won’t all be destined for soaring growth. At some point, you’re going to come up against a limit. What’s getting progressively more important is the keywords I’m hearing at the Brew Expo more often than anywhere else: “sustainable” “quality” and “local”. “We’re going to see quite a lot happening there,” says Adam.

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