On this episode of the Brewer to Brewer Podcast Scott Hargrave of Balter Brewing in Australia interviews Alexandra Nowell of CLS Farms. Amid the conversation on hops and careers the subject eventually turns to brewer burnout.
Listen to the full conversation via the player below or download Brewer to Brewer wherever you download shows.
Scott Hargrave: You mentioned some family stuff that was going on when you left Three Weavers, but I think that any of us that have put up any sort of miles in breweing gets to that point where where things can get a bit oppressive. There’s the relentless nature of brewing.
When we were building Balter we were running 18,19, 20 hours a day to the point where we had a Balter build a bunk bed in the brewery for me and I used to sleep there. That all sounds quite romantic when you’re first getting into it, but you can’t do that forever.
When it comes to fatigue and burnout and it starts to creep in, how were you with all of that, because I know you were working really hard as well.
Alexandra Nowell: I definitely went through multiple cycles of burnout during my years at Three Weavers, there’s no doubt about that. Some of them were worse than others. I think the pandemic era burnouts were a bit heavier.
Los Angeles had some of the most restrictive regulations during COVID in the entire country. So all the bars in the city closed overnight. And we were predominantly on-premise brewery. And the shift there was pretty crazy.
Then also the fear. We didn’t know a lot of what was going on at the time. So also managing your employees feelings, and making sure everyone feels safe and also able to be productive during a really strange time.
Burnout is real in brewing. It’s something that we’re addressing more and more and mental health has started to become more of a conversation within the industry, because that wasn’t always the case.
It was like “we’re brewers, we can just drink and party.”
That’s totally not the case, all the time, we definitely can’t do that. There’s a lot of hardship at work that you have to do. More and more people are stepping back and they’re looking and they’re asking “is this still worth it to me? Am I still paying enough respect to myself? “
And then on the other side is, are you still performing in a way that’s adequate or more than adequate for your business as well, because it’s more than just about you. I didn’t leave Three Weavers because of burnout. There were definitely times that I considered in the couple years leading up to me deciding to resign where I seriously considered stopping.
But you pull yourself out of it. And fortunately, despite repetitive cycles of burnout, I still love the industry. So I think I was never so far that I was at the point of no return. Self awareness is an amazing thing sometimes.
Scott Hargrave: There’s there’s an intensity where you got to run flat out for a long time, you got to be running at top speed for an extended period to make it all work and I’ve never worked in a brewery where that wasn’t the case.
Alexandra Nowell: I was always really mindful with my people to and openly communicative. If something’s not working for you don’t let it fester so that you bitch about it to your coworker, like we’re in high school. Just say something. Let it out. Let’s talk about it. There’s no reason to keep something back.
If something’s not working let’s figure out something that does work. You want to stop that from happening. I mean, I would take the brunt of burnout before I allowed any of my employees to deal with some of the stuff that I had to deal with.
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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.