Thursday, August 11, 2011

Teaching and Learning Opportunity

One of the best ways to learn what you do not know about a subject is to try and teach that subject to others.  The act of organizing information about a subject in a logical and understandable order highlights the parts of the subject that you are less knowledgeable about or confident in.  While daunting, this can motivate you to explore those areas you lack knowledge and turn the teaching activity into a learning opportunity.  This maxim has proven true at many points in my life across many subjects and is now true of homebrewing, as well.

The owner of my local homebrew shop, The Fermentation Trap, invited me to teach a class on all-grain brewing earlier this year.  We settled on presenting the information in the traditional theory and practical manner, where all-grain brewing basics would be provided in a lecture-style session first and then followed up by a brewing demonstration.  This method allowed the attendees to absorb the information and then apply it in a real situation.  The lecture portion explored the all-grain process by discussing the following points, which were punctuated by showing the participants examples of actual homebrewing equipment.

  • Recipe Preparation and "Beer Math"
  • Mashing
  • Sparging and Lautering
  • Post All-Grain Steps
    • Boil
    • Cooling
    • Fermentation
The actual class went fairly well.  We had fewer participants than the 10 we were shooting for, but they asked questions and seemed genuinely interested and engaged.  It helped that the Fermentation Trap had a version of the beer the class would brew during the demonstration on tap to taste, and some class members brought in beer to sample.  I also discovered I had too much information to present than the 90 minutes we scheduled and I ended up adjusting part way through to cover less detail.  This is certainly something that can be fixed for next time, with less time being spent on the preparation and practical "Beer Math" and more on the different sparging systems, which seemed to present the most mystery to the attendees.

The demonstration also proceeded well, with more people showing up to see the actual process.  The biggest hurdle was the heat, as it was close to 100 F that day, but the owner of the Fermentation Trap figured out a way that much of the process could proceed in the air-conditioned indoors, which was a life-saver.  The group ended up hitting our numbers on our Thunder IPA and being able to apply some of the knowledge learned from the previous portion of the class.

Overall, teaching the class was enjoyable and a learning opportunity for me.  If you ever have a chance to do something similar, please consider doing it.  Teaching is a great way to give back some of the knowledge we have accumulated over time and is very rewarding.  I am happy to send anyone a copy of my talking points, just send me an email.



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