Teaching a Class on Brewing

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JMcManaway

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So - our local LHBS sucks. It's primarily a bartending school/bar supplies shop and the guy is just nice enough to stock brewing supplies, though readily admits that he knows next to nothing about beer making.

This has been to the chagrin of his sales, obviously. People want answers when they're buying a product. He's also said that he's had a lot of people come in, buy a beginner's set up, and then quit after their first batch.

I want this shop to be better for the fact that I want fresh grains (he only sells extract kits, no grains at the moment), fresh hops, fresh everything - along with nice equipment. My thought: Teach a class on site, show people how easy it is to brew good beer. Greenville has the top beer-selling grocery store in all of NC - so obviously beer drinkers are out there.

So, I'm going to teach a class in a couple of saturdays. If you had about an hour of class time and then actually going through an extract with specialty grains brew - what things would you cover? What advice can you give?
 

tdavisii

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specialty malts......what they do and what they are for
yeast/fermentation........what to expect/temps/times etc
 

BoxofRain

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Your looking for a lecture before the actual hands on lesson?

Simple chemistry of fermentation
Basic equipment
Quick review of advanced equipment (Conicals, sculptures) ...basically a "where you can go with this hobby" approach.
Sanitation
 

McKBrew

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Keep it very basic. Discuss the basic beer histor, ingredients, and basic extract starter equipment. I'd mention AG brewing briefly, but focus on extract because chances are that is how a majority of potential brewers are going to enter this hobby. Give some handouts that direct potential brewers to the How to Brew website and even to Homebrewtalk.
 

6fiddyv

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I would do what they do on food network. Have 1 or 2 brews partially completed at about 30 and 90%. That way you can start a brew, then move to the one going at 30% showing a HOP addition and then finish the class off with the 90% completed wort and show final chilling and pitching. You can stay real general, and offer an extended class to those who are really interested. This way you can give this in one hour or so.
 

Nightbiker

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a very excellent suggestion. Wouldn't hurt, either (if local laws and ordinances allow it) to have some bottles of your homebrew already chilled in a cooler (or tap from your keg) so the people can see what the finished product is really like. I've known a few who did what those folks did (get the kit, get all excited, give up after one or two attempts because they either didn't get what they expected ( one guy thought he was going to brew michealobe) or it just didn't work out due to infections.
It helps immensely if people realize what they are actually likely to get for their work.
ALSO, and I expect you would anyway, EMPHASIZE SANITATION.
I think you have an excellent idea -and it sounds like fun. If I didn't live so far away, I'd volunteer to help.
 
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JMcManaway

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Thanks - I do appreciate all the advice. I've already got an outline of the lesson, but you guys have confirmed what I thought was important.

I really hope this helps to build a brewing community - I found out the local homebrew club has a whopping 10 members, 5 of which may show up to the monthly meeting. I'd like to see a good 50-100 people start brewing (the university itself has 25,000 students - to be sure we can get a few of them brewing). In my ideal scenario, I want to have enough people doing PM and All Grain by next January ('09) to justify the LHBS owner buying grains in bulk and a grain mill.

I know when I first brewed with some friends (who had a very sophisticated set-up) the mystery was taken away and suddenly brewing became very interesting and seemed very do-able. The LHBS owner is extremely excited - he told me was almost ready to do away with the brewing stuff because it wasn't worth it to him.
 

Bob

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It might be helpful to plan for an intermediate class or gathering at a future date. Give your beginning students something to look forward to, and it gives you the opportunity to get more in-depth.

For that matter, it gives you a way to increase attendance at your club meetings, as well as attract prospects: have an interesting program for every meeting.

One of the clubs to which I belong discovered several years ago that attendance (and paid membership) was dropping off precipitously. After some acrimonious trustee meetings, it was discovered that people weren't renewing their memberships because they weren't getting anything out of membership. So they decided to bring in interesting, vibrant, interactive programs each meeting. And membership started coming back. My LHBC has an interesting program each month. Recently, we had programs on advanced mead, yeast washing, and others.

I suggest you get your students to join the LHBC, and take the reins to start making the club worth joining! Have fairly basic programs at first:

1. Specialty grains. Get a variety of specialty grains and have a tasting. Teach what pale malt, Crystal malt, chocolate malt, etc. taste like, smell like, discuss what they'll do in beer - alone and in conjunction.

2. Hops. Get a variety of hops and have a sensory evaluation. Get some pellets, but especially some whole hops. Have the attendees rub the whole flowers between their hands, stick their faces in there and inhale (just like Jim Koch on the Sam Adams adverts). Teach the difference between the flavor/aroma descriptors, why Cascades are citrusy, why Saaz are spicy, so the students can identify what "citrusy" and "spicy" are really like.

3. Sharing. Have every attendee bring beer to share. Homebrewed is best, but n00bs or idiots like me who run out can bring commercial beer. Get a tub of ice to chill the bottles and a supply of small, clear plastic tasting cups. No one can grab any bottle but his own, and the brewer gets to decide who to share with. All tasters are required to give constructive criticism (though good-natured ribbing amongst good friends is lots of fun, too!).

4. Yeast analysis. At a meeting, give everyone a bog-standard recipe, like a Blonde Ale or something. Have different people use different yeasts to ferment their beers, but use the same malt and hops. If you can't gin up enough interest amongst all the members, you'll probably get one or two fellas to want to do it; let those guys split the batch into 1-gallon jugs and ferment each gallon with a different yeast. Then repeat 3.

5. Visit a local brewery. Arrange a private group tour at a local packaging microbrewery or brewpub. Arrange to have the brewer(s) there to answer in-depth questions from students/members. (Nothing sucks more than arranging a tour of a cool brewery only to have the tour conducted by someone who doesn't know beans about brewing.) It's often eye-opening to homebrewers how commercial brewing is the same process - I used to call it "homebrewing writ large"; the pro brewers just have more and often shinier equipment.

6. Arrange to procure yeast or wort or something special from your local brewery/brewpub for the students/members to experiment with. Have the attendees bring a sanitized container to take home pitchable yeast. Then repeat 3 with their beers several meetings later.

I gots lots more idears. ;) Make it fun, and you'll have a full class, as well as club meetings.

Bob
 

tomc

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I once took a beginning brewing class that was 3 nights, each a week apart (maybe it was 3 sessions two weeks apart, long time ago so I forget). Anyway we were able to actually brew a beer that way. First class was introduction, basic ingredients & process, 2nd was bottling (you can expand on first class information then too) and the 3rd we actually got to try the beer we made. Well actually the instructor made the beer, we just watched and helped a little.

Anyway the multiple class approach allowed us to actually see the entire process and to try the results. It was a great introduction.
 

Pyrenus

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For the first class, I think it would be a good idea to just run through the whole process really quickly. Ignore temps and times and just illustrate the whole process from start to finish. Starting with extract would probably be helpful as that's where most beginner's start as well.

You could close the class with a "tasting" of a few of your home brewed samples. I bet that would be very popular.

In later classes you can focus on each step in more detail.

I would definitely attend if there was something like this in my area.
 

Pyrenus

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Expanding on tomc's ideas:

Actually brewing beer via the class is a great idea as well. Class 1 could be making wort and setting up the fermenter. You could let the beer ferment in the store and the students could come in at their leisure through the week to "check out" the progress (without touching, hopefully). That would be great for the store as well.

Next class could be racking to secondary, and maybe a few other topics to help fill the hour. Next class could be bottling. Final class would be enjoying the results.

That really sounds like fun! The total class could span 3-6 weeks, leaving the whole thing in the store for a "display" of sorts between classes.
 

TexLaw

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Try to keep it a dialogue, more than a lecture. Pepper it with trivia and history. That really keeps people interested. While the wort is boiling, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do, so that is your time to show folks what brewing really is all about.


TL
 
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JMcManaway

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I think you've got the right idea, Texlaw. I was showing my girlfriend how to brew a couple of weekends ago and as I went through, step-by-step, I explained stuff. Then, during "dead" times (the hour long boil, chilling the wort, etc) I took the time to elaborate.

I think I'm going to do about 20-30 mins of introductory stuff, though. I don't want to start talking about "wort" and "barley" and "hops" if they have no idea what that stuff is.

Thanks for the advice, guys. Keep it coming!
 

Baldy_Beer_Brewery

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I'd keep it simple. All the beer history and what each specialty grain does suggestions sound good, but it isn't information the first time brewer really needs to make their first batch.

My lhbs has a beer workshop once or twice a month I think. They basically just show what everything is, how to steep the specialty grains in a grain bag and how to add the extract and hops. Then they answer questions. Afterward, everyone roams around the store buying equipment and extract kits. If anyone has any questions while they are shopping, the staff at the lhbs does a pretty good job of answering them.

I think most people seriously thinking about brewing have already researched a bit before going to the lhbs. They just may-haps want to see a run through before diving in.
 

beerthirty

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+1 on extract brewing. Once a person understands the steps of brewing, AG makes sense. Trying to teach the uninitiated AG makes it far to complicated for the beginner. Focus on sanitation, cooling and hops(hand out flyers on hop attributes). This is the flavor of the beer. If they make good beer on the 1st attempt, they will want to do it again. Once an extract brewer becomes proficient its an easy step to PM and AG, they can find their way. Most of us did. Remember your LHBS will make far more money selling extract and hops than he will grain and most people will build their own equipment. I would have the LHBS supply everything for the demonstration and you keep the beer. He will make money off of everyone that attends that day. You should get to keep the beer.
 

niquejim

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If you're like me(and you must be, because I'm doing my second one 11 /01)
keep it simple. I will be brewing one batch in advance and bottling it the day of the demo. I will then do one extract w/ grain batch. I have a sample of all the different grains and a few hops to show(smell) the difference. This year I will be talking about an AG class at a future date if there is interest

I'm taking a couple kegs of my best beers to try and lure a few.
As TexLaw said
"Try to keep it a dialogue, more than a lecture. Pepper it with trivia and history. That really keeps people interested. While the wort is boiling, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do, so that is your time to show folks what brewing really is all about."

Don't think of yourself as a teacher be a non-obnoxious salesman
 
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