Microbiology is fascinating because it deals with the good micro-organisms that keep us healthy as well as the bad ones that are detrimental to our lives.
Our next pathbreaker, Rahul Sharma, works with the good ones weaving his magic on alcoholic beverages that pack a punch, especially during a celebration. Rahul is a Micro-Brewer/ Craft Brewer, blending the science behind micro-organisms with his creativity in producing subtle flavours at English Craft Brewery.
Rahul talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his career path into the world of Brewing and Distilling.
Rahul tell us about your background?
Hello, This is Rahul Sharma. I was born and brought up in Alwar , Rajasthan. I completed my schooling from Rajasthan board and did my BSc in Biotechnology at Rajasthan University. During college time I used to perform many skits about social work. I subsequently shifted to Pune for higher studies and opted for master’s in brewing and distillery at Vasantdada Sugar Institute, University of Pune. My father is a HR (Human Resources) professional. While growing up I went with my dad to his office and saw technical work. Thats how I my interest towards technical work grew and I chose to study Biotechnology.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career? What did you study?
I finished my bachelor’s and then proceeded to complete my master’s in brewing and distilling at Vasantdada sugar institute, Pune university. The institute of Pune brewing and distilling, including the college faculty was phenomenal. They provided raw materials for brewing and learning. I never missed classes. I attended practical labs and got exposed to brewing processes, so that was the turning point. I choose brewing industry because I liked working at the brewery.
How did you get your first break?
Internship is critical and a degree of certification in brewing too is of enormous help if it also includes an internship opportunity. Within a few months of my master’s degree i showed my work to a brewer and he told me to join his team. I joined his team and continued to work with him.
Tell us about your career path. What were the challenges? How did you address them?
The best way to know what career can be interesting to you is to do a couple of internships. My college always encouraged internships.
After my graduation i joined as trainee first at Carlsberg in 2015. I was working in the laboratory and learning practical work during that period. So whenever I had time I would visit the plant and saw all operating processes, CCT (Cylindrical Conical Tanks), BBT (Bright Beer Tanks), bottling and packaging. I liked what i saw and tried to join the brewing industry but at that time it was not possible to get a job easily. I was just a trainee, so my father’s friend told me to go to Pune and do master’s course in brewing.
In 2016 i joined Pune university and interned at Grainotch Pvt. LTD, Aurangabad where they were making alcohol and whiskey blend, so I joined for a couple of months as trainee. But i got bored with the work, so I decided to leave the training. I told my friend that I wanted join a Craft Brewing company. He told me to visit brewing companies and and talk to brewers there, but I did but not get any response. Then I called someone’s friend who was working in Chandigarh and he gave me the contact number of Mr. Shailendra Mohan, Brew Master at The Brew Estate. He gave me an internship and I interned for 3 months as trainee brewer at The Brew Estate, Chandigarh.
These were valuable experiences and Craft Brewing was a growing business. After that i was appointed as brewer at The Brew Master. That was a great experience working with him. After a few years I got an opportunity at Bangalore as lead brewer at English Craft Brewing Company.
Where do you work now?
I am working as lead brewer at English craft brewing Co., Bangalore. I maintain brewing records of modification or changes to beer recipes. I solve issues related to microbiology, for example, how does yeast work, calculating yeast pitching for beer fermentation, checking off- flavours during fermentation. During my training I used to observe every process, I kept an eye on every step and read brewing books. Whenever i have an issue related to a brew (beer batch), I write it down in my handbook and try to solve the problem.
It is essential to know about this industry and one needs a bachelors degree in science and should have brewing skills (malting, water chemistry, hops, how yeast works, maturation time and temperature for beer) as well as technical knowledge (pump, PHE, Value). Recently we were making a brew and the wort got boiled over by accident, we lost half a batch of beer.
This field is interesting to me because we are independent brewers. So if I have a new idea, i can infuse and develop a new style of beer and sell to people. With every brew we learn a new recipe and a new idea of making beer, which i love.
How does your work benefit the society?
As i see today’s generation, beer is like sharing feelings between friends, people and colleagues. People who love beer get together and have a drink, so it’s also a great way to connect people. Medically, beer in limited quantity benefits health. We manufacture beer in different flavours and aroma without any artificial flavours. Even people have beer pint so it helps in digestion, blood circulation, protects your heart and helps reduce stress. Increased information about beer will help consumers fit the beverage into a balanced diet, and beer is third in world wide beverage consumption.
Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you?
I had worked as a lab chemist in a distillery. That was very memorable because i was involved in making Ethanol (Type of alcohol) which is used for many purposes like whiskey, pharmaceutical and there I met a senior Mr. Datta. He is very humble and i was working under him. I learnt making alcohol and IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor), as the government calls hard liquor . I learnt about flavours in whiskey from there and that was the beginning of my association with alcohol and beer since college.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
I would say that brewing is art. It’s very dynamic and knowledge centred industry. If you are interested in learning about food and beverages, I recommend this industry to you. If you want to join this field my suggestion would be to do a masters in brewing and distilling and preferably get a certificate course which will then enable you to intern . With an internship experience the path will be smoother.
After five year in brewing , you get to have a rough idea about the working of the entire industry. Right now I am planning to set up a few processes which will prepare me for becoming a master brewer, my next position in this industry.