The Path to the Craft
Biotechnology and beer might not seem the most likely of bedfellows, but for a modern-day brewer a science degree is the most common way to get a foot in the door. "When I studied brewing at the Technical University of Berlin, the course covered everything from engineering to biochemistry and microbiology to maths," recalls Wiebke Hense, who joined Guinness® as an intern five years ago and is now Brewing and Governance Manager at St James' Gate. "By the end I had learnt how to build my own brewing plant and understood products on a molecular level. I was the only woman in the classroom but I remember thinking that if the boys could do it, of course I could too."
“By the end I had learnt how to build my own brewing plant and understood products on a molecular level. I was the only woman in the classroom but I remember thinking that if the boys could do it, of course I could too”Wiebke Hense
It was the unique brewing processes that really got her hooked. "Studying brewing technology was the best decision I ever made. The process is fascinating: ancient and traditional but also new and surprising. Holding a beer in your hands after you take care of it through all the different steps is so rewarding." Fellow brewer and process development technologist Feodora Heavey agrees. She studied chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at Dublin City University before falling in love with brewing on an internship at Guinness. "I loved the skill, the innovation and the craft behind the beer. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a brewer when I finished my studies."
“just walking through the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style gates’ of the brewery every day is a thrill”Wiebke Hense
What advice would Heavey offer anyone thinking of becoming a brewer? “Be passionate about beer; to love brewing you need to appreciate it. There are a small number of courses that specialise in brewing but a good way to get into the industry is through science and engineering.” She cites working on the Brewers Project and “the physical part of the milling and mashing” as her favourite parts of the job so far, although just walking through the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style gates” of the brewery every day is also a thrill. “The brewing equipment is unrivalled and St. James’s Gate is steeped in history. It's special to know that generations have brewed here and will continue to in the future.”