Monday, January 28, 2013

All Grain Brewing Class

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching a two-day all grain brewing class.  The class was held at my local homebrewing supply store, The Fermentation Trap.  The store had hosted me teaching a similar class a few years prior, but on a more limited scale.  Several of the customers had been asking for such a class, and Kenny approached me about doing one.  I was happy to oblige.

For those who have not taught or lead training exercises before, they can be intimidating.  There is something rather scary about standing in front of a group of other people and providing them information, regardless of the topic.  That being said, I have a good deal of experience training people from my previous job, as well doing community theater and being confident in the subject matter.  Still, I was a bit nervous, just like anyone else would feel.

If you find yourself preparing for such a presentation, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Preparation - Being prepared is critically important for any kind of teaching or training activity.  Make sure to have talking points or an outline to help keep you on task.  It is also helpful to have something to provide to the people attending the class, to allow them to follow along.
  • Confidence - Be confident in your presentation.  Hopefully, you have been asked to make the presentation because you are knowledgeable on the subject and the others are interested in learning that information.  Confidence in that knowledge will help you get through the presentation.
  • Flexibility - Good instructors respond appropriately to questions from the students.  You want people to ask questions and to spend time to answer them.  If one person asks a question, others in the audience probably have the same question and will value the time you spend answering it.  However, do not let it side-track your presentation too much.
  • Repetition - Make sure to repeat the most important points of the talk, as you do not want them to be missed.  An old Army training maxim holds true - "Tell them what you are going to teach them.  Teach them.  Tell them what you taught them."
  • Fun - Try to work some humor or anecdotal information into the presentation to break up the flow.  People get bored listening to one person talk for extended periods of time.  Even including some pictures into a slide presentation can really help.
The all grain class was broken into two sections: a 90 minute lecture and a brewing demonstration.  The lecture was well attended, with around 15 people participating.  I covered the major differences between all grain brewing and extract brewing, and walked people through the preparation, mashing, and sparging phases of the process.  Several people in attendance asked good questions and it was an enjoyable group to work with (teaching at a brewery where people can enjoy pints during the lecture certainly helps).  Most people also attended the brewing demonstration the next day.  It was cold (for Virginia) and we ran into the invariable "Murphy's Law" issues that occur when brewing away from home and in front of others.  Several students stated that the adjustments we made for those issues made the class real to them and gave them problem-solving tools they appreciated, which I found interesting.  I also made a conscious effort to incorporate the elements from the lecture into the brew day.  This generated more questions, which I felt was the best evidence that the participants took information away from the experience.

There are some elements of the class that could be improved if it is to be given again.  In particular, I think I could shorten the brewing math section as it went over most people's heads, and instead focus on the physical equipment to hammer home the practical brewing tips.  Such observations and alterations are good to incorporate into course materials, especially the first few times a class is given.  That allows future participants, and the instructor, to have a more enjoyable experience.

Have you ever attended a brewing class?  If so, what were the elements you enjoyed most and those you liked least.  We would love to hear from you.



Note: Updating post with two images taken during the class by Jeff Sties, who was nice enough to send some along to me.  Thanks, Jeff!


  1. My pleasure, Tom. You taught a great class; I'd recommend it to anyone. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jeff, and I am glad you enjoyed the class.



  3. Tom,

    Is the CAMRA forum web page down? I posted a question about re-sealing pellet hops in their Mylar bags (is it worth it?) and was hoping to get a response.


  4. Jeff,

    I am just seeing this now and the forums do not appear to be up at this time. I will email our member who knows most about them and let him know. Thanks for alerting me and sorry for the slow response.



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