MSc in Brewing and Distilling

Ken writes:

I got my results back recently after a nervous few weeks in anticipation and I learned that I will be awarded an MSc in Brewing and Distilling with Distinction from Heriot Watt University near Edinburgh. It’s a great relief because it was quite hard on us all as a family to have me in Edinburgh for long stretches while Dot managed the fort in Dublin. She effectively sacrificed the best part of her research leave, to be honest, because although we got an (exceptionally friendly, competent and reliable) au pair in to pick up the slack, she inevitably had to deal with more family emergencies as the sole parent on hand.

This is my fourth and hopefully final university degree. I could at some point go for the M. Brew awarded by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, but really, that would be starting to get a little silly.

Now I just need to find a job, which is always the hardest part. So far I haven’t been having much luck. The problem is that the small brewing industry is very much in the early stages of development and most of the people starting up want to brew themselves, they don’t want to hire someone to do that for them AND, the perennial problem, where they do seek a professional, they want someone with prior experience. I’ve approached several prospective employers, sometimes speculatively and other times in response to advertised positions. So far to no avail.

There is always the tantalising option of going into business for myself. Here the problem is that we have no capital of our own, the banks are still fully converted to fiscal conservatism following their indulgence during the Celtic Tiger boom, we’d need to borrow a lot and additionally may not seem the safest bet in view of my lack of experience running a business or brewery. So it is all gloom.

On the bright side, I’ve been networking like crazy and have made some useful contacts among distillers as well as brewers. I think there’s a lot of soft support and good will about at the moment for people wanting to enter the industry. I attended the recent Whiskey Live expo in Dublin as staff initially and then as a member of the public and it was a great occasion.

Still the future is open but unsettled. I’m a little bit long in the tooth now to be entirely comfortable with this. I will be touching the big four oh in the next couple of years and I’d really like some security by then.

A picture of Whiskey Live before it got madly busy.
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3 thoughts on “MSc in Brewing and Distilling

  1. Mairi Jay

    Dear Ken,
    I sympathise with your situation. Its a very difficult position to be in. Although Ireland is supposed to be doing better than Spain, Portugal and Greece in terms of recovery, I suspect that if unemployment is lower than those countries, it’s probably because Irish people have left in droves to countries overseas – we have heaps of them in Christchurch.

    In my view, you are following the absolutely right strategy by keeping up your contacts with folk in the brewing and distilling industry. People will get to know you and as the saying goes: “It’s not what you know but who you know.” You have more than once said that part of the difficulty of getting a job in Ireland is that you are in competition with the locals. But just by turning up at these things, you will become less and less an outsider and more and more a local.

    Alternatively, perhaps you could change your surname to McLoughlin (meaning ‘Viking’in Irish, so the web tells me), McGrath (son of grace i.e. yours truly GMM) or Beoir O’Brady (‘Brady’ is supposed to mean spirited).

  2. laura

    Congratulations on the completion of your degree! I suggest that your new certification hang, framed, behind a bar or dining table (not in the bath). So… On the advice of Mairi Jay, Christchurch doesn’t sound like your ideal destination. You could compete with the Fargo Brewery in my city, but I much prefer the idea of a start up. Keep us posted as to your goals. Maybe a kick-starter launch would provide seed money…you will offer sample product for investers, no?

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