When I floated the idea of doing a mini-series exploring some of the underbelly of the beer industry back in January, I was flooded with private messages from brewers and bar staff sharing their personal stories, many of whom started with the prerequisite: ‘I’d like to share anonymously…’
It seems that discussing topics such as workplace treatment, remuneration for overtime, expectations from business owners, and general emotional and physical well-being seems to be something that we talk about in hushed tones.
As I alluded to in last week’s into to The Under Beer Belly of a #BrewersLife, while these examples certainly don’t exist across the board, they present themselves under the cover of darkness.
Beneath the veneer of an X Pro or Valencia filter, you will hear stories of low pay, long hours, feeling undervalued and excessive drinking.
Allow me to emphasise, I know many brewery and bar owners who run companies that treat their employees with respect and due care, rewarding them with good pay, flexible working hours, the correct training and PPE, and token gestures such as growler Fridays or team pizzas.
But there are examples of inexperienced people entering the industry and working for peanuts because they’re desperate to get their foot on the brewing professional ladder, working for £12K per annum as a head brewer, with minimum pensions contributions and not much else to show for the long, tireless hours.
The moral of the story is simple – for both employer and employee alike: “do to other people as you would have them do unto you”.
Having put this contentious topic out there, I was contacted by a fellow Brit and former brewing professional – now living in America – who was worked for numerous breweries, both large and small, to discuss some of the issues surrounding well being and mental health in the beer industry.
Mike McGuigan, who was worked for various breweries throughout 20+ years, left the industry little over a year ago having had the last straw working for a small, startup American craft brewer.
He shares his personal story and reflection on – what I consider to be – one of the main issues that the beer industry is not facing up to: how many of its workers – the heart and soul of many brewhouses (it’s operatives) – are not tenderly cared for.
In this episode, we look at some of the mental and emotional impacts of working in brewing, the financial ramifications for many of its operatives, the two way support that needs to take place between employee and business owners alike, and the excessive drinking that can creep in just to keep a lid on it all.
This week’s brewery shoutout goes to our good friends at Lord’s Brewing Co in Huddersfield. Get their latest Handbook Session IPA – Pride Before The Fall – and more great beers from their webshop www.lordsbrewing.com using the code #hopforward for £5 off your order.