Having children is a life-changer. It’s magical, but you also have to deal with less of everything: sleep, energy, and free time. That’s why a lot of homebrewers give it up when they become parents. A temporary break makes sense when you’re integrating a newborn into your life, but many people never get back into it, which is a shame. While parenting is demanding, don’t forget that a creative hobby can help you recharge. Some ex-brewers also cite safety concerns, which is a reasonable point—pots of boiling liquid, fire, and glass can be very dangerous. But that’s true of cooking in general. In the same way you adapt to having a toddler around in the kitchen, you can create a safety zone around your brewing.
Why bother? Well, aside from having the tasty end result in your fridge, keeping up with homebrewing can make you a better parent. It lets you model the DIY spirit for your children, along with fostering respect for creative expression. It can also give you the chance to demonstrate responsible drinking, where the focus is on quality and flavor, and not just on getting buzzed. Like any other hobby, it represents a healthy work/life balance.
It’s even better when you make it an activity for the entire family. Having the kids around and getting your spouse involved is a great bonding experience. The extra help can make the brew day go easier, but it’s also more fun. Finally, it’s important to remember that beer is not gendered; it’s just as valuable for daughters to watch and learn as it is for sons.
If this pep talk is resonating with you, then I’ve got some recommendations for making the most of being a family brewer.
Back on That Horse
If you’ve got a new baby in the house, by all means, take the break you need. Once you’ve caught up on your sleep and can think again, though, it’s time to get back to the hobby. Obviously, an infant is completely unaware that you’re brewing. That’s fine. You’re laying the foundation for the future. If diving back into all-grain is too daunting, remember that you can still make great extract brews.
Keep it Safe
Once your kids are toddlers, you’ll need to take their safety into account while you’re brewing. Teach them to respect the burner and the brew pot, and be careful what you leave laying around. Get used to keeping an eye on the kids as you brew, while thinking about each upcoming step in the process (this is where keeping detailed notes and checklists will come in very handy!). The extra attention will likely make you a more focused brewer.
Once your kids get a little older, you can invite them to join in, just like you would for baking or other domestic activities. It can start simple, with activities such as letting them help bag hops or weigh the malt. Then they can graduate to grinding grain or tossing the hops into the kettle. Remember to be patient with them—a shorter attention span is normal. They might get bored with the process, so don’t push them; brewing should be fun, rather than a chore or obligation. If you don’t force it on them, they might find it more fun as they get older.
Teach While You Go
Explain the process and equipment as you go, but remember to tailor it to your child’s level. A masters-level lecture on saccharification is overkill, but it’s worth remembering that the process is pretty amazing. Starchy grain turns sweet (you can taste it!), tiny creatures eat the sugar and make bubbles, and things transform along the way. Share in their wonder as you explain and answer their questions.
The short-term benefits are clear: you won’t lose the relaxation of a favorite hobby, and you’ll continue to have home-crafted beer on hand. Even better, you’ll have the chance to connect with your spouse and your kids over a fun activity. You might get lucky, and they’ll stay with the hobby. If so, you can feel proud that you’ve given your children a leg up—their apprenticeship with you will teach them about ingredients, recipe formulation, and the process, making them much more sophisticated brewers than most beginners.
In my case, my son was only vaguely engaged in my brewing while he was growing up. He’d ask occasional questions but didn’t have the patience to get seriously involved. Family travel to Germany a few years ago sparked some greater interest, and after a year as an exchange student in Germany, he came back excited to learn to brew in earnest. Now, he’s become my full-scale brew assistant. On our most recent batch, an all-grain Munich Dunkel with a decoction mash and lager fermentation, he selected the style and did much of the work with my supervision. It made me proud!
From ingredients to equipment, process, and recipes—extract, partial-mash, and all-grain—The Illustrated Guide to Homebrewing is a vital resource for those new to homebrewing or those who simply want to brew better beer. Order your copy today.