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'In one brewery they keep the spiderwebs': How I got hired as a drinks consultant

The dream job? Maybe, says Susan Boyle.

Image: Susan Boyle

SUSAN BOYLE’S ONE-woman show, A Wine Goose Chase, premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2012 and she has been touring it ever since.

The show, Susan told TheJournal.ie, mixes storytelling, history and wine tasting. “I was searching for a way of combining my drama skills with my wine knowledge and came up with this idea,” says Susan.

“I had been researching the wine trade in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries for a television programme. What I was learning about Ireland’s enjoyment of wine, the business of importing wine into Ireland and the number of Irish people making wine in Europe was astonishing, and not widely-known, so I decided to write a show about it.”

We asked Susan how she ended up with the coveted job title of Drinks Consultant.

Did you ever imagine when you were little that this is what you’d end up doing?

Surprisingly, even though my job as a drinks consultant revolves around alcohol, I actually did consider it as a job when I was little! My dad is a publican, and I come from a long line of pub owners, so I suppose the drinks industry is in my blood.

Once I was old enough to taste alcohol, I was fascinated by the flavours: such a variety of aromas and tastes as diverse and interesting as the people who were making the beverages. The renaissance in Irish micro-brewing was just starting while I was in college in the late 90s so I suppose I was very lucky that my palate and interest developed as the industry grew.

What subjects did you like at school and did you go on to study at third level?

Even though I have dyslexia, I love languages and took French, German and Irish all at honours level – which was hard work but worth it.

At school, my best subjects were biology and art. I think there is a natural curiosity that artists and scientists share. If you look at the great minds of the Renaissance like Da Vinci or Michelangelo there wasn’t a division between the arts and the sciences like there is now. There is a creativity that people who excel in both fields share. Sometimes I feel that the arts are sidelined in education, and seen as a soft option, but arts training encourages critical thinking, problem solving and interpersonal skills.

After school I went on to study Drama at Trinity College, Dublin. Drama is an amazing subject to study as it is so interdisciplinary, it overlaps with, modern languages, history, sociology psychology, philosophy, but is a practical discipline. You learn how to communicate clearly, how to hold an audience, how to sew, how to build and hang lights… The discipline is based on learning to work together and on tight timelines with tiny budgets. I firmly believe a degree in drama is great training for any career on of off the stage.

Source: Shutterstock/Giorgio1978

Has travel influenced your career choice?

Yes, travel helps you see things from a different perspective. You can’t really understand wine unless you see where grapes grow, meet the people who grow them and make the wines. Things just click and make sense when you see them in real life. You understand how the sun shines more on one slope of a vineyard, and that as a result the wines from this slops taste different to other wines from the vineyard.

Traveling and seeing how beers are brewed in other places has been an eye-opener, too. In the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, they won’t remove the spider webs because the spiders help keep other bugs in check and add to the unique brewery environment which makes exceptional beers.

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What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I’m fascinated by how bodies work – my guilty pleasure is surgery TV programmes! If I didn’t follow this path I think I would have really liked to do medicine.

Have you had any serendipitous moments that have led you to where you are today?

I like to say yes to opportunities, which may have unexpected outcomes you never know who you will meet and what it will lead to.

I started attending wine tastings when I was in college. My dad would get invitations through work and he suggested that, as I was in Dublin, I should go. At the time there were very few young women attending these tastings. These events were a great way to learn through tasting and meeting the winemakers.

My wine show would never have happened if I hadn’t replied to an email request about a television show – sometimes saying yes opens doors you are not expecting.

What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

The people I meet and the things I get to taste. I love when I can help people find great things to drink.

More: 5 ways to brush up on your key interview skills>

‘In one brewery they keep the spiderwebs’: How I got hired as a drinks consultant>

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