WHAT YOU DO: Wine jobs have been around forever, but growth in the high-end craft-beer and craft-spirits industries has provided new opportunities outside the grape. Last year, Scott Kerkmans, of Four Points by Sheraton, became the world's first chief beer officer. His enviable responsibilities: travel the world, receive beer at the office, and host prestigious events. "In wine you have the sommelier as independent taste tester, and brewing now has its counterpart, the master cicerone," says Kerkmans.
WHY NOW: Craft-beer sales grew 12 percent in 2007 alone, with breweries cranking out $5.7 billion worth of product. Meanwhile, the total number of craft distilleries increased 30 percent last year. "It's where the craft-brewing renaissance was 15 years ago," says Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
THE NUMBERS: A head craft brewer producing more than 60,000 barrels per year (or 14.9 million pints) earns $92,000 on average. Independent consultants start at roughly $40,000 a year but can make more than $800 per day. Taking home a case or bottle from some labels each month isn't bad either.
BREAKING IN: Degrees in microbiology or organic chemistry are common for posts with big wine and beer producers, while distilling is still very much a journeyman or apprenticeship industry. Still, many of today's most innovative entrepreneurs developed their palates by brewing, fermenting, or distilling at home first. The University of California at Davis and the Siebel Institute of Technology, in Chicago, are regarded as the best brewing programs in the country.