Six Degrees of Beer

Kevin BaconIn preparation for an article I’m working on, I spent a portion of yesterday with a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While we didn’t remotely discuss beer, it will be little surprise to many of my readers that I tie this stuff together.

It’s not so much that the attack on Pearl Harbor=better brewing, it’s just this Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon mindset I have (or should I say Six Degrees of Beer?).

I feel pretty strongly that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason–we should listen twice as much as we speak. If we’re listening, we’re learning. We’re then able to act with a broader knowledge base, which one might hope translated to fewer mistakes. After all, we truly don’t have time to make them all ourselves. We can and should learn from our elders.

So I’m listening to Sam describe his experience to me (and asking a lot of questions), and can’t help but feel additional layers of wisdom settle in my core. And then, beer enters my thoughts. How good a brewer would I be if I’d been going it alone all these years? Fair to midland, at best. My first two years were awfully sparse on the mentor front, as I lived on the Navajo Reservation, where there are no homebrew clubs. I had Ruddster, who had brewed a few batches years before. He helped me with my first batch and was there with advice based on his limited brewing experience. I had Colonel Clark, who’d been stationed in England and took the time to school himself on the lovely British libations. And I had Gene, from Homebrewers Outpost–Flagstaff’s homebrew shop.

But it wasn’t until I joined a homebrew club (CARBOY) that I really started to grow by leaps and bounds. I showed up to steward at a competition, and Dave and Eric were judging the porters, the category to which I was assigned. They were positive and welcoming and full of helpful tidbits. I learned a lot that day.

And then came the wealth of beer knowledge from the likes of Mike, Mike, Jim, Steve, Mack, Ken, Paul and many others, some old enough to be my dad or grandfather. Older and wiser (or better educated). And by keeping my mouth shut (except for the asking questions part) I became a better brewer, at times, by osmosis it seemed. Books are great, but human contact is invaluable.

It doesn’t take six degrees to get from a wise and experienced old man to get to a better kettle of wort. Take that old man as the motivation to surround yourself by experienced brewers who are almost always happy to share their knowledge. Listen, learn and apply it to your brewing. Get involved in a club. Go to brew-ins. Ask advice from professional brewers. They’ll share.

And you’ll be a better brewer as a result.

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