What I Don’t Know About Brewing Beer

(Listen to this post, here.)

You’ll be pleased to learn that I was not entirely idle over the holidays.

Thanks to a “beer brewing kit” given to me by my children, I joined the ranks of other home-based craftspeople and voluntarily spent an entire afternoon attempting to create a more expensive, lower quality version of a product that is readily available in any number of retail locations.

I will spare you too many of the specifics, other than to say that beer brewing is a not uncomplicated process. Indeed, over the course of just a few hours, I was tasked with all kinds of measuring, boiling, shaking, straining, timing, pouring and temperature-taking activities.

It was like caring for an infant, except this time, I didn’t feel guilty about leaving it alone overnight in the basement.

Did I learn a lot? Absolutely. So much so, in fact, that I am certain things will go a great deal more smoothly the next time.

But here’s the thing…

While I now understand the steps involved, I don’t have any real insight into why I’m doing what I’m doing. 

I’m just blindly following a recipe, without any sense of what matters a lot versus what matters not at all.

Am I “making beer?” Sure.

But given my anemic level of comprehension, I have no freedom to improvise and zero ability to make improvements.

Compare that to the ninja-level of understanding possessed by my beer-brewing-aficionado friend, Gordon Graham, who – as proof of his commitment – grows his own hops for this very purpose.

Here are just a few of the things he shared when I asked for some “tips for the novice:”

Be scrupulously clean to avoid contamination.

Pay close attention to temperature.

Swap in fresh yeast from a brewing store and double the recommended quantity.

Do your bottling in the top dishwasher rack so all the spillage (there will be spillage) is simple to clean up.

Novices understand “what.” Experts understand “why.”

How to Look Like an Expert

As professional service providers, we are in the business of selling what we know.

Sometimes it’s customized (working one-on-one with a client); sometimes it’s one-size-fits-all (publishing a book, creating a course, running a webinar).

Whatever the format, it’s information, not tangible things.

Which means that if you want to be viewed as someone whose knowledge is worth paying for, you need to share it (newsletter, blog, podcast, presentations, etc.), so that others can, in effect, sample you.

And the “it” that you want to share are your “Whys” – AKA, your expert insights.

In my beer example, telling me to “use a funnel to fill the bottles” is a “What.” Pointing out that it’s going to be messy, so you probably want to complete this task in the dishwasher, is a “Why.”

To get to your own Whys, consider this critical question: What do you know that a person who just entered your profession yesterday, doesn’t?

The attorney who just passed the bar, the financial planner who just became a CFP, the doctor who just graduated from med school… each of these newly minted grads may actually remember more of the Whats than the seasoned professional.

But it’s the ins and outs, the tricks of the trade, the perspective, that adds the most value – and those only reveal themselves after you’ve brewed a whole lot of beer.

“Now hold on just a minute,” you’ve no doubt just said out loud inbetween sips of your own nearly undrinkable home brew. “If I give away the really good stuff, won’t people just do it themselves, instead of hiring me?”

Of course. That’s why all the plumbers on earth have gone out of business, since there are plenty of books, blogs and videos on the subject available for free, and we all just do it ourselves now.

In other words, don’t worry about “giving too much away.” The more you share – of the really good stuff – the more convinced I become of my need to hire you and nobody else.

Here’s the bottom line.

Experts know the shortcuts. They know what matters and what doesn’t.

When you share those kinds of insights, people listen. Some of those people end up hiring you.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever left an infant in the basement overnight? Explain.
  2. If you were going to brew your own beer, what would you call it?
  3. What’s an insight in your profession that your less experienced peers don’t realize?

Share your answers below…

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12 thoughts on “What I Don’t Know About Brewing Beer

  1. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA

    Great newsletter Michael!

    1. I have wanted to leave an infant in the basement overnight, but not actually done so.

    2. Uh well, I don’t even drink good beer let alone homemade so….

    3. You cannot separate money from feelings. It doesn’t mean holding hands with clients to sing “Kumbaya”, but it does mean closing your mouth to listen when clients veer off onto topics *seemingly* unrelated to money.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s a great insight, Michelle. (And a good example of why you are such a stand out CFP!)

  2. Stephanie Patterson

    1. Like Michelle and probably every parent on earth, I was tempted to leave a pair of twin infants in the basement many times many years ago…but never did. (They’re now 30 years old.)

    2. Pee-vo. This is a play on the Russian word for beer, which is usually transliterated into English as “pivo.” I spelled it that way because I suspect that, were I ever to attempt home-brewing beer, that’s what it would taste like.

    3. Grammar rules are not rigorously set in stone and not meant to never be broken. On the contrary–occasionally bending or even breaking them can create memorable, effective writing. There’s a great example in our Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I love your #3, Stephanie. Great advice.

      As for your #2, as I always say to my friend Rick, who drinks nothing but Bud Light to my porters, “your beer looks like my beer after I’m done drinking it.”

  3. Dan

    1. Precious few basements in Texas; I haven’t had the opportunity.
    2. “The End of 28 Years of Sobriety.”
    3. A thesaurus is quite easy to use.

  4. Mark Wayland

    #3… “when you can articulate another person’s problem better than they can, they automatically and unconsciously credit you with knowing the solution.*” AKA becoming AN Authority …. This rule applies equally in business AND in the brewing and the drinking of beer AND even the making and the rearing of infants.
    *Wyatt Woodsmall

  5. Lisa Chontos

    1. Sometimes tempted to leave my high-energy 4-year-old down there but never my mercifully laid-back 2-year-old boy/girl twins. ;>
    2. “Preferring Wine, I’ve Never Drunk Beer Before, but Thanks for Taste-testing This”
    3. Writing: less is more.

  6. Grace Kennedy

    1. Have never left an infant in a basement *overnight* but my daughter was a newborn the year the Devils made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Considering the fact that hockey playoffs last 300 weeks (that may be more of a perception than a fact), there were many evenings when I gladly left my daughter in the basement to watch hockey with her dad late into the night.
    2. “Otra otra vez” – Sierra Nevada has archived their “Otra Vez” and we miss it very much. “Otra vez” means “another time” or “again” in Spanish so I would make “another another time” or “again again”
    3. It’s harder to write a short piece than it is to write a long piece.


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