Brewing and Soccer Balls

Two of my great loves are sports and beer.  My sport of choice.  The one that I think most about is soccer.  As a big fan of beer, I occasionally home-brew.  So, of course, I’ve thought about how coaching soccer is similar to brewing beer.

Let’s start with soccer.  The rules are set up to make soccer a players sport.  First, there are no timeouts allowing the genius on the sideline the opportunity to break up the momentum of the game and inject himself into the discussion.  Second, there are only three substitutions.  Again, this keeps the guy in the sweating through his expensive suit on the sideline from doing anything irrational to disturb the sanctity of the proceedings.  Non-soccer fans are often amazed at how little a soccer coach actually does during a game.

How it this like brewing beer?  All the work of the coach or the brewer must be done ahead of time.  The players must be clear on what they are expected to do through practices and team meetings.  Once the game begins the players are on their own until half-time and the occasional message screamed from the sideline to players.  Otherwise the coach (or manager) just sits and watches his players make plays.

Most of the work the brewer must do occurs before beer is actually made.  Grinding the grains, mashing the grains, weighing out the hops, preparing the yeast.  Then boiling all of that stuff together  happens before you add the yeast to make the beer. Once the wort (unfermented beer) is added to the fermenter, there is nothing else for the brewer to do but keep the temperature steady and make sure the yeast keep busy.

It takes a certain kind of patience and confidence to do either well.  A good coach needs patience because he cannot affect much of the game until half-time, and then he is limited by his lack of substitutions.  The coach also has to have a great deal of confidence in his coaching abilities because he if has not taught his players well and explained what he expects of them during the game, he will lose.

Brewers are similar.  The patience to let the yeast do its work and not rush the process is vitally important for a brewer.  Also, they must be confident in their process (the when and what of every step of brewing beer).  Through repetition and more importantly successful repetition, the brewer develops the confidence that he can brew any kind of beer he sets his mind to.

Any time the beer isn’t exactly what the brewer expected he chalks that up as a learning experience and tries again.  Much like a coach looking at a loss as not a rebuke of his coaching abilities, but an opportunity to “coach up” his players a little more.

There you have a somewhat coherent take on soccer and beer.  Don’t worry, it makes sense to me.

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