I’d like to share some tips and tricks that I use when brewing with my kids.
When it comes to multi-tasking I’m about as genius as a knife. Nevertheless, I have made several successful brewdays happen while watching my kids.
I have two kids, ages one and a half and almost four.
Embrace the “Help”
My son, Win, is a great helper. He is always asking what he can do and wants to be involved in what I am doing. I think this is something that is innate in us as humans. We like to feel valuable and useful.
What I choose to do with his energy and desire to help is paramount and so I have (at times) gotten him involved in the brewing process. The thing about kids helping is that a lot of the time it is actually more work to get them participating. Initially, it’s more work. The long-term result is a more capable and confident individual. This is especially true of people like myself who like to come across and competent and useful.
Letting Win stir while I pour in the grain to mash-in is and example of something that is “easier to do myself”. What I ended up with, when he helped me, was a dough ball mess but if I keep letting him stir. Eventually, I’ll get across to him the importance of not letting clumps form. He also really enjoyed the process of trying to hunt down each congealed mass and obliterate it. The downside here is it took me twice as long to mash-in and the upside is I got to have an fun experience with my son. Win for the win.
Stuff Kids Can Do
These are some of the things I let my kids help me with while brewing or bottling.
- Rinse bottles with Star San solution and place them on the drying rack. (With some observation to make sure everything does indeed get sanitized)
- Carry random stuff like hops or yeast packets to and from the basement where I store things.
- Grind grain (this one is more of one where I do pretty much all the work and they hang out but it’s still fun for them).
- Hop additions
It’s not uncommon now for Win to accompany me to go grind some grain. Even just letting him pour some of the grain into the hopper on the mill gets him excited and gives me a sense of satisfaction.
All the little things don’t seem like much but it’s how I see myself getting my kids started into the enjoying the process of brewing. If I take the time to relax and not be so concerned about getting things perfect (like while mashing-in), then I am fostering a sense of value and building a better relationship with my kids. That to me, is way more important than making sure I mashed for exactly 60 minutes.
Planning and Timing
One key strategy I employ when brewing, especially with my little ones around, is planning. This is not a new revelation. The steps for prep are the same as many others take. The day before brewing I do the following:
- Collect all necessary water
- Measure out and add salts and lactic acid as needed
- Measure out hops, put them in bags labeled for additions, and toss them back in the freezer.
- Make sure my yeast will be ready to go…starter or whatever.
Another useful tactic I employ is timing. This one is mainly geared around critical steps in the brewing process. End-of-boil chilling and ensuring sanitation are two areas in which I try not to have too many little hands involved. For now my kids still take afternoon naps so I like to make sure they’re sleeping when I need to chill the wort.
On the off chance that they’re awake I give them snacks or make sure they have a fun activity, like coloring.
There are definitely people out there that wouldn’t let their kids near a boiling kettle of wort. That’s their decision. However, I do not let me kids in the “brewery” unattended while I have 25 liters of boiling liquid on the counter. I’ve taken time to explain to my son (who can understand) what he can and can not touch.
Brewing with kids can be a fun and rewarding exercise. For me it takes letting go of perfection and control and taking the time to bring them into the process. Long-term I would love my kids to be homebrewers. But even if they aren’t into it when they get older we’re still creating some great memories. Brewing shouldn’t and doesn’t have to take time away from your kids.
Comments are welcome!