Whether it's wine, coffee, beer or tea, we all have a favorite beverage. And at some point we've probably been accused of being a snob about it. But what's wrong with being a snob if you just want to drink something you love, right?
If you pore over the wine menu at restaurants, special order your favorite teas because you just can't find them locally or search out the best and latest craft beers, you just might be a beverage snob. So why not take your passion seriously and make a living out of it? Here's a list of 10 jobs suited for those who like to imbibe both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
If you've never given a thought to a career in oenology, perhaps it's because you don't know what oenology is, exactly. Don't worry — oenology is the study of winemaking. Many of us dream of winning the lottery, leaving our 9-to-5 lives behind and moving to France or Italy and buying a winery. Living on a vineyard among the grapes and vines, creating your own label and hosting tasting events sounds like the dream life. For most of us, though, it's a nearly impossible dream.
However, you don't have to own a winery to be a winemaker. Someone else might own the winery, but many owners hire someone to oversee day-to-day operations and run the business. You'll need experience, though. Basic requirements include a degree in oenology, technical experience in winemaking (perhaps as an apprentice) and overall knowledge of the different varieties of grapes. It's all worth it, though, if wine is your passion. And the taste testing and learning is definitely a great side benefit.
If you're a fan of beer and don't mind hard work, consider the unique career of a brewmaster. Although many people might think so, brewmasters don't just sit around and taste beer all day (although that might be a fun job, too). Professional brewmasters can't spend the day working drunk any more than anyone else can. A career brewing and crafting beer requires math, chemistry, creativity and a very refined palate.
Brewmasters do a lot of cleaning, tinkering around and experimenting with ingredient combinations. You also must be on your feet for most of the day. But how about the perks? In addition to being around something you love (think Homer Simpson loose in the Duff factory — without the crazy hijinx), you're not behind a desk the entire day. You also get to mingle with customers and find out what they like and don't like about the various beers your brewery creates. And, expect to get a daily allowance for food and one or two free beers a day! You can't sell your product if you don't know how it tastes, right?
Are you a wine connoisseur? Serious wine lovers can turn their love of the grape into a career. Not only must they be able to taste the distinction between different varietals and types of wines, but also be willing to go through the process of becoming a sommelier — a wine professional who typically works in a fine restaurant, choosing the perfect wines. Master sommeliers go through a more grueling certification process, which is why there are so few masters in the world.
As a sommelier, you get to taste some of the most rare and most expensive wines in the world, pairing them with gourmet food from the finest chefs. Some sommeliers stick with one restaurant, some move from place to place and some travel internationally to visit popular wine-growing regions and vineyards. If you work at a restaurant, you have input on the menu as you pair wines with featured dishes on the menu. You also craft the wine list and arrange tastings for the public or private wine clubs. A seasoned sommelier may even meet with celebrities to personally choose wine for their collections.
Perhaps you're a fan of beer, but the brewmaster career isn't for you. Bartending is another option. Besides getting to check out new and seasonal brews at your bar or restaurant, acting as the gatekeeper to the alcohol makes you the most popular person at the bar. You make excellent tips (usually), make friends with regulars, sometimes serve celebrities and get to be creative and invent new drinks or shots involving beer. Or, you can stick to the purist side and learn which beers go best with the food your establishment serves.
Of course, the flip side of this is that you're working when your friends and family are out doing other fun things. Bartenders also have to deal with overly intoxicated patrons who may get aggressive or unruly. Finally, the most important and difficult part of bartending is the responsibility. You need to ensure you only serve alcohol to those of legal drinking age, as well as never serving to people who are visibly intoxicated. You can be held legally accountable if you do so [source: AACEA].
Caffeine, especially delivered in coffee form, is one of the most popular beverages around. You can hardly drive a block without seeing a coffee house, whether it's part of a massive chain or an independent neighborhood joint. With so many different kinds of coffee drinks available, and the massive choice of coffee beans and roasts at our fingertips, it's almost impossible to just "get a cup of coffee" anymore. Thus, we now have the career of barista.
A barista doesn't just make coffee. Great baristas know exactly how to "pull" a perfect shot of espresso. Grind the beans a little too long or not long enough and you end up with a bitter, acidic cup of coffee. Steam the milk incorrectly and it's bubbly and scalded instead of sweet and silky. Baristas also must know how to keep the machines clean and perform simple maintenance. And great baristas get to know their customers, their likes and dislikes, and even experiment with their own coffee creations.
Tea is a way of life for many cultures. It's a civilized break during the day, a time to drink a hot cup of tea and take a few minutes to de-stress. With the hundreds of flavors and varieties of teas in the world, you could probably drink a different variety every day before finding a favorite. We think we found the ultimate tea lover's job.
In September 2014, the Tetley tea company put out a job call for two people to travel around the world, tasting tea. The people hired for this trainee tea buyer position would taste up to 500 different tea brews a day in countries like Kenya, India, Uganda and Tanzania [source: Victor]. One hire, a philosophy graduate, said that math and people skills are important, since the tasters also purchase the tea from factories and at auction. It takes about five years to become an expert [source: Tims]. What better job for a tea aficionado?
Brewery Tour Guide
Those with a real love for beer who also have the gift of gab make great tour guides for local breweries. You need to be charismatic, enjoy witty banter and be able to organize groups of people. Most importantly, though, you need to have a thorough understanding of your brewery's beer-making process, the beers they sell, interesting trivia and what the different beers taste like. And most brewery tours end with a tasting sample at the end, which is fun for everyone.
Of course, you need to be a responsible person to have this job. You must be punctual, of drinking age, and know how to manage possibly intoxicated people. Most tour guides will learn on the job, but you can land a tour guide job more easily if you already have knowledge of the brewing process. And a good beer palate certainly won't hurt, either.
Another great career for a coffee lover is the coffee roaster. You can't make great coffee without high-quality beans and roasting those beans is a complicated (and some may say artistic) process. If you have strong feelings about coffee — can tell the tiniest differences between types of beans, regions and even the taste variation on the same coffee from your local shop each day — you probably have the sensibilities of a coffee roaster.
Coffee roasters actually order coffee beans while they're green. Green coffee beans stay fresh for up to 2 years. Once roasted, however, they can lose flavor within three weeks, and even shorter if the beans are ground [source: Wortman]. Roasting green coffee beans releases the oils within the bean, thus releasing the flavor of the coffee. Roast longer? Get a darker, deeper-tasting blend. Because the roasting process relies so much on air conditions and temperature, you can roast one batch of beans on a Tuesday and another batch on Wednesday and get two different-tasting coffees. Excellent coffee roasters try to keep their roasting conditions as consistent as possible, in order to keep their customer's favorite coffees tasting the same every day.
A complicated job where it takes a minimum of three years to see a finished product, a master distiller makes whiskey. The process of making whiskey is long with many steps, from grinding barley into grist, mixing grist with hot water, fermenting yeast, distilling the liquids into "wash" and "spirit" and storing the alcohol in casks for up to 50 years [source: Insley]. Many distilleries have been around for decades and tend to be family affairs, where everything was done by hand until many of the more difficult tasks became automated.
Still, the career of a master distiller is still hard work. In addition to the manual labor of making the whiskey, distillers ensure the process runs smoothly. But they also get to travel around, marketing their liquor and ensuring it's being served and sold correctly. And then there's the tasting — when you have stock that's more than 20 years old, you have a lot of tasting opportunities.
Tasting Room Host
Many wineries feature tasting rooms, where visitors can taste and learn about the various wines. The tasting room host offers up these wines, providing information about each one. This information isn't just, "This one's red, and this one's white." Tasting room hosts have an exhaustive knowledge about the vineyard, the subtle differences between each wine, how they're made and what foods they're best paired with. The host is almost like a sommelier for a specific winery and can in fact be a step to becoming a full-fledged sommelier. Tasting room hosts also get to meet interesting people with the same passion for wine.
Many wineries have their tasting room hosts undergo rigorous training. They learn the history of the winery, all the wines and how they're made, and even the soil and the grape picking process. Some wineries have their hosts take regular blind taste tests of their wine so they can develop a refined level of expertise [source: Gerakaris].
How can you get out of giving a professional reference if you don't want to? HowStuffWorks has some tips.
Author’s note: 10 Thirsty Jobs for Beverage Snobs
Now here's a career path this author can get behind. As a fan of wine, I never realized you could work with wine without first training to be a sommelier. Of course, I'd have to work on my palate and probably move to the West Coast, but I'm okay with that. Learning about specific wines and how they're made, doing research, tasting — these are a few of my favorite things. And, I'm rather comfortable with being called a snob. How about you? What's your poison?
- AACEA. "What to Consider Before Taking a Job Serving or Bartending." May 30, 2013. (Nov. 30, 2014) https://aacea.com/blog/tabc/what-to-consider-before-taking-a-job-serving-or-bartending
- Barefoot Student. "Beer Tour guide needed." 2014. (Dec. 2, 2014)http://www.barefootstudent.com/boston/jobs/part_time/beer_tour_guide_needed_191753
- Café Contibio. "What Does a Barista Do?" Aug. 2, 2014. (Dec. 2, 2014) http://www.cafecontibio.com/what-does-a-barista-do/
- Crowe, Aaron. "10 fun jobs that pay well." Today. April 7, 2014. (Nov. 22, 2014)http://www.today.com/id/40029496/ns/today-money/t/fun-jobs-pay-well/#.VG5sp9ZbzKE
- Insley, Jill. "A working life: The master whisky distiller." The Guardian. Dec. 3, 2010. (Dec. 2, 2014) http://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/dec/04/working-life-master-whisky-distiller
- Gerakaris, Jim. "How to Work in the Tasting Room at JUSTIN." JUSTIN. Sept. 22, 2012. (Dec. 2, 2014.) http://www.justinwine.com/wine-blog/fall/work-tasting-room-justin/
- Job Shadow. "Interview with a Brewmaster." 2012. (Nov. 14, 2014) http://www.jobshadow.com/interview-with-a-brewmaster/
- Victor, Anucyia. "The best job in the world for brew-lovers? Tetley seeks globetrotters to travel the world from Kenya to India... tasting TEA." Daily Mail. Sept. 9, 2014. (Dec. 2, 2014)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2743395/The-best-job-country-Tetley-seeks-brew-lovers-travel-Kenya-India-Tanzania-Malawi-Uganda-taste-tea.html
- Wortman, Marc. "What exactly does a coffee roaster do?" MakeGoodCoffee.com. Jan. 31, 2011. (Dec. 2, 2014) http://makegoodcoffee.com/coffee-talk/what-exactly-does-a-coffee-roaster-do/