Life Lessons In A Glass Of Beer

It was blisteringly hot last Saturday. As I took that first sip of a cold quality beer I knew it was sure to ease my thirst. However, I never expected that in that same frosted mug were also lessons on how to be a better Dad.

Often as fathers we find parental inspiration in the most unlikely of places. For me, further insight into my parenting skills came to me just last week while attending a seminar on beer & BBQ'ing. Perhaps it was the samples of fine micro-brews, or spending time in the company of other Dad’s, but as our speaker discussed the secrets of brewing a premium beer, my mind began to draw comparisons to parenting.

I learned that when it comes to making beer, everyone starts out with roughly the same raw ingredients–barley, hops, yeast, and water. Why then is there such a difference between a bottle of “buck a beer” and a quality brew? The answer lies comes down to many factors, including time & quality, and process.

Great beer takes time. Commercial brew masters will tell you that while you can turn out a beer in just a few weeks, if you want to greatly increase the quality, you need more time--quality time.

The same is true when building relationships with our kids. While we can "get by" only fitting in an hour here and there with them during our week, the more time we are willing to spend with our kids--playing, reading, talking, listening, learning things together--will result in a much richer quality relationship. Great Dads know that each moment spent actively engaged with their children is an investment in future relationships.

There is no substitute for quality. In 1493 Duke George the Rich of Bayers-Landshut enacted an order which was extended to the whole of Bavaria in 1516. This is known as the Bavarian Purity Law. Like the brewer's oath, it states that nothing may be added to beer other than barley, hops and water. To this day, the rules of the Purity Law are followed by many breweries around the world, resulting in beer of exceptional quality. However, many commercial breweries detour from these standards, trading off quality for cost savings. One example involves substituting large quantities of expensive malted barley with inexpensive corn syrup. While the resulting product is still palatable to many, beer experts can tell you there is a noticeable difference in quality to a premium full-barley version.

As Dads it’s easy to substitute quality time for just "time". The key is in giving your undivided attention. Whether it is exploring a frog pond, making pizza, or reading stories together before bed, your kids should know you are theirs and theirs alone. By being “present in the moment” during play or discussions, you show them how important they are to you. Avoid being an “unconscious parent”—doing one thing but thinking of another. Be there in body as well as in mind and spirit.

Process is important. You can give five different brewers the same ingredients, and the results could be staggeringly different. One might produce a quality ale, the other a light lager, still another something completely undrinkable.