Agile and Brewing

During an interview for Agile for Humans, Ryan asked me about parallels between agile and brewing. At the time I mostly blew it off. My thinking then was that the feedback loop was too long and the inspection bit was a tad too fuzzy. Ultimately there is a link with the inspection and adaptation.

In my short home brewing arch, there have been many experiments. Most of them have worked, but a few have them haven’t been so stellar. Our, I brew with my wife, first beer was an Oatmeal Stout. Once it had been bottled and cellared for the recommended time, we sampled it. It was good, but not spectacular.

For the inspection aspect, we had our fellow homebrewers sample the beer and provide their feedback. We also had some professional brewers and a Cicerone provide feedback. Tasters were very inquisitive, asking what yeast, what temperature it was fermented out, how much oats went into the mash and so on. We received valuable feedback and recommendations for making this recipe better. The top two items were being able to control our fermentation temperature along with using more oats but toasting them in the oven first to enrich the flavor that they bring.

Adapting based on that feedback, we purchased a small freezer and all of the gear that is required to monitor the fermentation temperature and control the operation of the freezer. The beers that we’ve brewed since then have had cleaner flavors. And now that we can cold crash them, which makes the yeast clump together and settle to the bottom of the fermenter, the beer has been much more clear. This subtle visual change - no haziness - makes the beer more appealing and stops it from screaming “beware homebrew!”

Following this inspect and adapt cycle has definitely improved the quality of our homebrews. We won a stein at this year’s Bluebonnet Brew-Off, the largest single-site competition in the world. In the regional round of the National Homebrew Contest we won a gold medal and earned a spot in the national finals.

Now to figure out how to translate this to agile teams…