Friday 26 April 2024

On Brewing Education

This blog has lead me in some unexpected directions. Most recently to a very interesting conversation with Kathryn Thomson, the Head of Education and Professional Development at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD). So it seems rather appropriate to put something on the blog. 

The IBD is becoming the Chartered Institute of Brewing and Distilling, so we will have to start recording our Continuing Professional Development (CPD). I have for a long while been insisting that as a professional brewer every pint I drink is CPD but that does seem to have bitten me on the arse now that recording CPD is something I'll actually have to do properly. I don't suppose untappd submissions will count. The blog however might, my write ups of brewery visits whilst on study tours have been described as "great examples of reflective CPD". I may be a beer nerd but I'm also a technical beer geek! Well lubricated though those IBD study tours may be there's a lot of actual studying too. 

Kathryn is trying to develop a practical and pragmatic approach to CPD which sounded very positive to me. And I also got a chance to go off on one about brewing education which was great because I have opinions

Having studied brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt and completed the IBD Master Brewer qualification I have done a lot of formal brewing education and it is definitely weighted heavily towards giant lager factories. These places may be where most beer is made but with the proliferation of craft breweries they are not where most brewers work. The IBD does seem to have recognised this as the shorter courses they've been putting out recently seem much more geared towards to needs of the smaller brewers. Which is nice. But the short courses don't count towards the formal qualifications so we did get on to discussing more American or Scottish modular system counting towards a qualification. 

We also discussed the engineering part of the IBD Diploma (module three). As I went to Heriot-Watt I got the diploma by exemption... as soon as I'd sent the IBD a cheque. So my learning of brewing engineering come from a lecturer that I could talk to and ask questions and as a full time student I had a friend on the course who helped me work through the maths difficulties until I'd got my head round them. Rather a different situation from someone on their own staring at a computer screen with no one to ask about what it all means. I loved it though and the distilling part more so (though I haven't forgotten the betrayal of theoretical plates*). I also got one of my highest exam marks ever for an engineering paper: if you get the maths right they have to give you 100% whereas a good essay might get 70%. How to provide learning material that makes tricky maths something that can be learned on your own remains a problem that will be tricky to solve though. Online mentorship would help but is not without its own problems, when the IBD had a forum it was soon overrun with spam bots and the IBD's linkedin group has several times more members than the IBD has. 

Speaking of learning material we then got on to the Master Brewer qualification, for which the IBD provides the square root of fuck all learning material. This does not overly impress me but I have to say my views were challenged. Is module four (resource management and regulatory compliance) really something the IBD should be providing learning material for, as there are probably other bodies better suited to such things? This is a very valid point but as the IBD is running exams about such things they could at least give you some pointers on where to look. We both agreed that the demise of the examiners report is definitely a bad thing. Not sure how they managed to get away with it really. 

In general the IBD could improve on learning material. The magazine nowadays isn't much of a learning resource, being mostly filled with corporate financial reports, advertorials and press releases. The journal has some cracking articles, all of which are easily available online, but most papers published tend toward more obscure matters. I mentioned that the MBAA podcast is a great for accessible learning about a wide range of subjects and is often being linked to a paper or presentation. 

I will be getting back to my reflective CPD shortly as I'm off on another IBD study tour next week and I'm very interested to see how I will soon have to be logging it. 

*You probably had to be there