HOMEBREW Digest #5315 Tue 01 April 2008


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  Brewing Logic and Experimentation ("Alexandre Enkerli")

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---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 02:18:46 -0500 From: "Alexandre Enkerli" <enkerli at gmail.com> Subject: Brewing Logic and Experimentation Steve Alexander's comments on how fallacies are transmitted, along with the logical toolkit he provided seem particularly a propos today. A day I like to call "Believe Everything You Read" Day. What a day like today reminds us of is the value of critical thinking, regardless of the apparent credibility of the source. Much of this applies to brewing science as is understood by us, uninitiated laybrewers. It's not that we don't have any knowledge. It's just that we come to rely on a kind of distributed knowledge as if it were the whole truth. This reliance on widely held notions is sometimes responsible for interminable debates over a large number of different brewing techniques and other details. Maybe we should spend some time, now, revisiting some of those widely held notions with experimentation in mind. In the culinary world, there are people like Herve This who are doing experiments to verify folk beliefs about cooking. http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-14170-3/kitchen-mysteries/reviews The same could be done in the world of brewing. Given adequate funding. Actually, the reverse approach might work well. At our scale, given the relative imprecision of our equipment and variability of our techniques, we may need to remain realistic. Instead of assuming that we can really get to the bottom of those issues, maybe we could simply attempt to accumulate as many data points as possible. By aggregating large numbers of data points, we might get a more precise picture of different dimensions of brewing. If 233 out of 296 brewers using the same yeast strain report similar results under diverse conditions, we learn more about that yeast strain than what the packaging may tell us. And there are so many of us brewing so many batches that it wouldn't be difficult to get massive amounts of data. Relatively unreliable data but still valuable. James Spencer's "Basic Brewing Radio" podcast seems quite compatible with this type of approach. Sometimes, semi-formal experiments are undertaken to check on some brewing issues (IBU calculations, HSA, flavor contributions of diverse sugar). At other times, anecdotal evidence is given about things which "have worked so far." Disclaimers, caveats, "Your Mileage May Vary," and other "grains of salt" all apply. In my mind, this type of imprecision is quite appropriate to homebrewing as a hobby. Sure, it's a neat feeling to be able to contribute to brewing knowledge. But we're still doing this for fun. I guess what I'd like to see is a type of compendium of all those data points about brewing. Including data coming from semi-controlled experiments as well as those more informal notions we've all gained through experience. An enterprising group or publication could even pay brewers a nominal amount for data about their batches. Brewclub meetings could happen around informal and more formal experiments. And brewing knowledge could be gained. Slowly but surely. Yeah, I know, it all sounds grandiose. But this isn't a day for small ideas. Granted, most of you will probably receive this on April 2nd. It's never too late for some wishful thinking, right? Cheers! Ale-X in Austin, TX http://enkerli.wordpress.com/ Return to table of contents
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