Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Teach Brewing

When I left California for Mexico in December I had no intention of teaching homebrewing down here like I've done in past years. I brought enough hops, yeast and specialty grains with me to brew a couple batches of beer for myself. After teaching some exhaustive five week courses at Cabrillo College, I just wanted to relax and give myself a break. Shortly after arriving in San Miguel, I discovered that's not what I wanted. I really enjoy sharing what I know about brewing with other people. It's very satisfying for me to teach a skill that I have a passion for and at the same time make connections with strangers who share in a love of brewing. What I really wanted, was to do it (teach) differently. What I came to find is that it's the way that I conduct classes that needed to be changed.

20 peso beers about $1.40ea.
A caguama is slang for the
large bottles of corona,
literally means
large turtle
After just a few weeks of warm weather, cheap food and drink and a lot of socializing I was ready to gather some students together and make a batch of homebrew. In the mean time, I forwarded my new class plans and got approval to do it differently at Cabrillo. I decided to cancel the five week course. The reason for this is that it is too cumbersome to manage since I can't leave my materials at the school during the course. Shuttling equipment and fermentors full of beer back and forth between the school classroom and my home and storage unit where fermentation takes place is problematic. I was wearing myself out especially when I needed to haul the 3-tiered brew sculpture, vessels and a ton of other stuff. Along with this challenge, I spent a lot of time worrying that I would forget (which I did on occasion) some vital tool, instrument or ingredient. Finally, (to stay on schedule)  moving primary fermentors around in the back of my van caused the settled trub and sediment to end up mixing back in solution not to mention the possibility of developing a spoiled batch through exposure. Instead, I will be teaching a 1-day introductory brewing class for the beginner and a separate 1-day advanced all-grain class for those with some experience. My plan is to bring fermented beer into class for bottling (kegging for the advanced class) that has been able to spend some time in a secondary fermentor that I hope to have free of sediment.

On another note, I'm excited to tell those people reading this from over the hill, West Valley Community College has asked me to teach these same two classes at their school in Los Altos and I'm eager to get started in a new facility. I'm also working to provide classes at a cooking school in Santa Cruz and will let you know about that once we work out the details.

Mexican homebrew
I feel a lot better about this new approach to teaching but I have to say, even though the five week course was difficult and had it's drawbacks, as a class we sure accomplished a lot and I received a lot of positive feedback from those that graduated.

I promise this, when I can find a school or facility in which I can leave the equipment in place along with the fermenting beer, I will start the five week program up again and probably expand on the idea. I'm working on that plan at this very moment while I enjoy an inspiring bottle of homebrew from my most recent Mexican homebrewers class.

For those interested in attending brew school this spring, here are the links with details.
West Valley College in Saratoga
Cabrillo College in Soquel

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