TCLP 2011-04-06 Hack Your Brew

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, my thoughts on a project Jon “The Nice Guy” Spriggs brought to my attention.

The hacker word of the week this week is flap.

The feature this week is a discussion I had with my collaborator on the Living Proof Brew Cast, John Taylor Williams, about hacking your brew. John mentions a wonderful book that speaks to this hackish take on brewing, “Radical Brewing” by Randy Mosher.


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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2 Replies to “TCLP 2011-04-06 Hack Your Brew”

  1. Hack Your Brew made me very nostalgic. Back in the day, I homebrewed to the extent of grinding my own grain and growing my own hops. Life and family intervened and as I gave my children the attention they deserved, I found myself unable to give my yeast the attention they deserved.

    Two things struck me about your comparison:

    Before you can make your own flavor of beer intentionally and consistently you need to master your craft. If you, for example, you want to make “hacker pilsner” you should be able to use your preferred ingredients and techniques to make a generic pilsner. Mastery of technique opens the door to personal expression. I think the same holds true in programming. My sense is you believe he same.

    Also, for me brewing became a lonely activity. The local homebrewing club fell apart and I had no nearby “brew buddies.” So I’ll suggest extending your analogy to suggest that paired programmer techniques like extreme programming should have their analogy in brewing. Often in brewing, a second perspective is useful and, as I’m sure you know, often it takes more than two hands and one strong back to move 10 gallons of boiing wort with the required care and precision. Not to mention the companionship of cracking open a couple of the last good brews and taking stock of life while you’re waiting for the next good brew to reach the right state for the next brewing step.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for your great podcasts.

    1. Regarding mastery, yes, John and I generally agree. Never acquiring a deeper understanding limits your ability to achieve particular outcomes in brewing. I do not think that one needs to refrain from experimentation entirely until mastering the stock recipes and understanding all the techniques, especially considering the time investment in brewery. Playful experimentation can supplement faithful execution of set recipes. I’ve definitely found in my own case varying things just a bit actually deeps my understanding of how various aspects of the craft work. I think that holds true for coding, too, especially considering software can often be far more forgiving and easier to correct than an off batch of beer.

      On your point about a social dimension, I’d say that paired programming is certainly one way of many to make coding a little less of a drudgery. I spent a lot more time early on in the Inner Chapters in particular delving into the various benefits of teams and healthy dynamics. There are the direct benefits of leveraging more minds and peer mentoring but also the indirect benefits of reducing stress through team building and sharing non-coding pursuits as breaks, like brewing.

      As far brewing with John, that social aspect is definitely why I originally stopped all those years ago, for similar reasons to yours. And John is definitely responsible for getting me going again by his offer of not only help but exactly that mutual enjoyment of the craft, the attendant discussion and definitely the social sharing of the products of previous efforts.

      Glad you enjoyed the episode.

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