What NBA Players Can Teach You About Homebrewing

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What NBA Players Can Teach You About Homebrewing
Imagine an NBA point guard about to take his first of two free throws.
A couple warm up dribbles....he lines up...pauses....crouches..... release!
Miss. So close. And the second shot?
What just happened here?

Benefits Of The Warm-up Shots
A 2010 study found that NBA players make a significantly larger percentage of their second free throws than their first (Cao, Zeheng. "Performance under Pressure in the NBA." 2010). From the study:
"It is also worth noting (estimates not reported) that players perform substantially (3-4%) better on the second shot than the first even when the first was missed, indicating that even seasoned professionals benefit from a warm-up shot."
Emphasis mine.
The player is adjusting for his second shot. That could mean any number of tweaks: His stance, his aim, his knee bend, his follow through, etc.
The point is, the first shot gave him a reference point. Did the ball tail a little left? He'll make the adjustment and pull it a bit right next time.
Even if you've never shot a free throw there are a number of games/sports with repetitive "shots" where I'm sure you've experienced this tactic: bowling, darts, and bocce ball to name a few. Think about playing these - don't you make little tweaks between your shots?
That leads me to what the heck this has to do with homebrewing.
It's All About The Rebrew
So many of our first brews of a particular recipe bounce off the rim. But instead of going back for that second, high-percentage shot, we move on to something else - just to bounce that recipe off the rim too. Close, but no bucket.
If we just made a few tweaks we could make that good beer great. Here are a few of the adjustments you should make:
  • The overall balance of the beer. Is the dominant flavor what you wanted?
  • The bitterness. Is it too high? Too low?
  • The dryness. Did the beer attenuate enough?
  • The alcohol content. Is it too in your face? Do you need to age it longer?
  • The hop aroma. Is it underwhelming? Need more late hops?
  • Did the yeast strain give the flavors you expected?
  • Should you ferment warmer or cooler next time?
When we create a recipe we have a vivid picture in our minds of what that beer should taste like. And good brewers can get really close to that on the first try. But like an NBA player, even the best brewer needs to make adjustments.
I understand the counter argument. It's tempting to want to brew everything under the sun. Brew it once, then on to the next one.
Especially when you're hanging around a place like HomeBrewTalk and you see dozens of creative recipes posted every day. You yell to yourself, "I need to brew that!"
I just ask you one thing - would you rather have 10 OK homebrews in your cellar, or 5 outstanding ones?
If you don't currently do any rebrews, give it a shot. It'll be your best one yet.
I wish more micro and nano breweries in my area would do this. Too much emphasis is placed on novelty and exotic ingredients instead of actual quality and refinement.
Good article, it raises a point I've been focusing on myself. Instead of just trying to brew a bazillion different things, pick a few recipes to focus on and improve. You end up with better beer, but it also allows the brewer a broader understanding of the net effect of various changes you can make throughout the process.
Also, thank you for the well-written, gramatically correct, spell-checked submission. With references, even!
"I just ask you one thing - would you rather have 10 OK homebrews in your cellar, or 5 outstanding ones?"
Sometimes that's a tough question.
Hopefully by the time that first brew is fermented, bottled or kegged, and carbed up, you'll already have a second brew planned and ready.
Sometimes you can't just jump right back into fixing the first one.
For instance, I brewed a lager. While it was working I brewed 2 or 3 ales. The lager isn't very good. So while I want to get back to it and try a different (whatever I decide needs tweaking) I'm not waiting around.
This has actually been my biggest homebrew goal this year, to take a few recipes and repeat them regularly to dial them in. I'm currently working on a red ale, a wheat and an IPA. It is difficult sometimes when you read through a big hunk of the Kate the Great thread and start getting ideas...
For me though, I'm putting together an overall lineup of 10-12 beers that I can brew on and off to tweak but not drive myself crazy from brewing the same thing.
Good article Billy. I have been thinking about this lately as well. I would pick the later, who wouldn't want 5 outstanding brews?
Pick a style, brew it over and over again, taking notes with every batch, comparing notes from previous batches(taste, body, mouthfeel, dryness, sweetness, hops, etc...) and adjust until you can perfect the style consistently. THEN move on to another style using the same process. Bouncing around styles is very difficult to get consistent batches.

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