… career in beer isn’t the worst idea in the world

Dan Jones has been with us for around four months now, and this is his story of how he came to realise that getting a job in beer is a pretty great idea! Normally we’d have a photo of Dan, however, a rather impressively bruised eye at the time of publication didn’t scream “working in beer is the best thing ever”, so you’ll have to settle for this photo of his hand. If you want to see the handsome man for yourself then he can normally be found in our Tooting Market store throughout the evenings. Enjoy.

This time last year I was staring out of the 13th floor window of a mundane office block, the great city of Manchester busying itself beneath me. At my desk sat another nonsensical brief delivered by a gaggle of overpaid and under-worked Apprentice contestants, each of whom boasted their own superfluous ranking and inflated sense of entitlement.

I had moved to Manchester almost two years previous to work as an in-house writer for an unnamed travel company. I’d spent over six years using words to sell all manner of products, and the idea of taking ownership of one brand was something that appealed to me, so I left my agency role in search of ‘the next step’.

I became pretty disenchanted with the whole thing from a very early stage. Ineffectual meetings, fickle politics and ego rubbing – I was just about done from the moment I walked in the door. Each morning became a painful cycle of monotony underpinned by the usual desolate vocabulary, and the afternoons were spent counting down the day that remained.

It was time for a change.

More than anything I wanted to get up in the mornings and go to work with a smile on my face. Financial gain became less and less important, and I slowly realised that I was only embarking on this futile pursuit to appease someone else’s idea of success. Life’s too short to be miserable in a job you hate, but I guess not all of us do something about that.

A job in craft beer was something I had considered, but only as a fleeting thought. It was my girlfriend who encouraged me to take the plunge. When you’ve been chasing a career in a particular field for a long period of time the idea of throwing it all away and starting again is a daunting one. Inevitable pay cuts, odd hours and grubby hands – it might all seem a little beneath you. If that’s what you think then it’s probably best you stick with what you’re doing. I, however, was ready to get stuck in.

While the move to Manchester may have prompted me to scrap my trade and start again, I do have that wonderful metropolis to thank for lighting up the runway. For me, Manchester is a place of innovation, and nowhere is this more evident than in the beer scene. There’s a pioneering spirit amongst the countless breweries occupying the city’s many railway arches. You’ll also discover a beguiling homage to tradition, with many of the breweries offering both cask and keg varieties of their beers.

Evenings of drinking and weekends spent visiting the pubs and bars around the city became research missions. Trips to Beermoth, the Northern Quarter’s beloved bottle shop, were educational pilgrimages that eased the lull of my working day.

After a night of scouring the internet and looking for London-based beer jobs, I stumbled across an advertisement on Gumtree for a role at We Brought Beer. I sent the owner an email, repeatedly referred to the company as ‘We Bought Beer’ and was surprisingly offered an interview.

I had never changed a keg before nor did I have any experience in the beer industry. The only bar job I ever had lasted for a quick summer around seven years ago in my hometown; it was the sort of place dominated by misogynistic old men, one of whom called me a ‘hippie’ before ordering his usual (a pint of John Smith’s with two ice cubes, a slice of lemon and two drops of Angus Duras bitters – I shit you not). I’d worked retail jobs, but my previous employers had only entrusted me to make sandwiches and straighten coat hangers. While I’m certainly no idiot, I was by no means qualified.

I guess that didn’t matter. Beer excited me and I think that James (owner of We Brought Beer) could see that. There was no need to conjure up contrived answers or rehearsed retorts. I’d attempted to fake enthusiasm in countless previous interviews for jobs I never really wanted, so when something I liked the sound of came along I actually found the whole process a lot easier.

I’ve been working at We Brought Beer for about four months now. The boardroom dross has been substituted for conversation and cold brews. I’ve shared pints with all manner of patrons, and I’ve learnt a ton about beer from my colleagues (and many of our customers).

This is also my first time living in London, which has opened my eyes to the sheer number of breweries currently churning out top-notch beer across the city. Of course, I was au fait with the likes of The Kernel and Fourpure before making the move, but I’d never heard of Mondo, Gipsy Hill and Belleville. What’s also surprising is the sense of community and camaraderie within the industry. Rather than compete against one another, people here seem to prefer to collaborate and share their insights, and everyone from the delivery driver to the head brewer has something interesting to say.

The only regret I have about this whole situation is that I didn’t tell my previous employers to stick it a long time ago.