The Art of the Journal

Journals. A book with blank pages that conjures up creative ideas and resolutions to write in them. Too bad the majority of people fail at using them! It takes time and dedication for you to actually leverage the power of a journal, so why write about it here?

Simple, you should record what you do, how you do it, and even who you do it with for brewing, tasting, and even traveling!

What is not measured, is not optimized!

Journals are great and I have two of them. One is my classic analog hardcover Moleskine that I use for work/life tasks and notes and the other is my brew log. My brew log is a digital ledger on Brewers Friend where I store my craft beer recipes and brew sessions. I make it a point to update my journals when needed. My work/life journal gets updated daily and my brew log when I brew or need to record when fermentation ends.


and now

Why are these entries important? Because they are great records or clues for what you did in the past. For work/life, it’s figuring out what I did so I can bill clients. For beer brewing, it’s about how and why I deviated from a recipe and what the results were. Did I end up making a better beer because I changed the mash schedule up? Does the beer taste better because the hops alpha acids were stronger or weaker?

You will NEVER get better at something if you don’t measure it. That includes brewing!

Invest in Journaling, NOW!

Why do I say “Invest in Journaling?” Because it takes a bit of time now that will pay off later. Writing a journal entry can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. It all depends on what type of entry you write. For the most part, it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to write or post an entry.

The benefit of journaling occurs after you’ve done it for some time. It happens when having a stack of filled-out journals or a bunch of blog posts somewhere. The value of journaling happens when you want to look back into the past and remember the details.

We remember in general our trip to Europe or a great tasting wine but we forget the details that made them great. Photos help with the details but they often don’t capture everything. I have a great photo of my Dad drinking a Kriek beer at the Cantillion Brewery in Brussels.

What the photo misses is the great walk we had through the city to get to the brewery. It missed conversations we had with a couple from Oklahoma. It missed their story on how they wanted to start brewing when they got home from their European trip. How they wanted to maybe start a business. It missed the sites, sounds, and smells of this European city. It missed the finer details that only I can recall now by looking at my journal.

One day you will get old and your memory will no longer be as good as it was that day. You owe it to yourself to write it down and relive the past in its most splendid/sordid/breathtaking glory.

Get started Journaling!

Getting started with Journaling is easy and you don’t need to buy a fancy journal! You can use a loose-leaf ring binder or go to Staples to get a cheap bound one. If you want to go the digital route, you can use write type into a text file or start a blog. Analog or digital journaling is inexpensive these days, so pick your medium and go for it.

Once you decided on your type of journal (i.e. analog and hardcover bound), then you have to decide what you want to record. Below is a great video on how powerful journaling is when you make it a routine.

Beer Tasting Journal

If you like to go to brewpubs, craft breweries, or love new beers, a Beer Tasting journal is a must. You can design your own layout if you want but Moleskine has a great PDF template that you can use to experiment with. They also sell a pre-made journal that’s based on this template for about $18.

You’ll need to bring this journal whenever you go beer tasting, just make sure not to spill any beer on it! 🙂

Wine Tasting Journal

Another great idea is to start a wine tasting journal! This type of journal is great to put in your glove box when you drive around a wine-growing region. You can get a pre-made Wine Tasting Journal on Amazon too for under $10.

Think about hosting a wine tasting party sometime!

Travel Journal

Some people like to make a travel journal where they put their entire trip into them. That would include food, drinks, sites, sounds, etc. This makes more sense to me because you can capture one entire trip (or many) in one journal. I haven’t done this religiously yet but I think I will start once I go to China again this year. I am considering getting a Midori journal for travel because they’re made of soft leather and appear to be highly customizable. They are a bit more expensive ($32) but you can refill them over and over again.

The Everything Journal

This is where I default too. I use my journal for everything! Mostly work but for my life as well. I create a health tracker, lists, notes, etc. I slap things together, it’s messy and at times very chaotic BUT it has dates and page numbers. I started making an index so I can find things faster.

The Everything Journal is just that, you can put everything you want into it. This guy’s video shows how he breaks up his $10 journal. That works for him and your journal should work for you.

Keep your journal simple but keep it active. Just start recording your brew sessions, your beer tastings, wine parties, and your travels now. You will thank me one day.

Note: There’s a bunch of affiliate links in the above post from which I derive a little bit of income, at no additional cost to you. I thank you in advance!

What is Gemütlichkeit?

Gemütlichkeit. It’s a strange word where you just “know it when you feel it.” It’s a positive word with a funky pronunciation that many non-Germans can’t say. Google defines this German word as “cordiality and friendliness.” In my humble opinion, Gemütlichkeit goes beyond just cordiality and friendliness. It’s that feeling you get when you’re hanging out with your buddies at a Biergarten or with your girlfriends drinking some rosé wine at a cafe.

Think Wholeness. Relaxation. Social.

Where do you find Gemütlichkeit?

You find it just about anywhere. Most people think of a Biergarten or Bar, but it’s often your backyard, a deck, or a patio. It could also be inside and around your dining table or coffee table. It can be anywhere where you feel relaxed and happy. The best part? You don’t need to add alcohol to feel it, you could as easily have some tea or coffee.

Make your own Gemütlichkeit

Making your own Gemütlichkeit is not hard. You just need to designate a space where you can either 1) host people or 2) make your own personal space. Here are some simple tips on how to create Gemütlichkeit in your own space:

Find a space or an area to host in. You don’t need a Biergarten or some big fancy area. You just need a space where you can provide some comfortable seats, a small table, and shade if you’re outdoors. Some of my friends have opted for a newer version of the Biergarten benches for their 3 season room where they host BBQ parties if the insects get too bad. I have a small porch which a few seats, a patio table with an umbrella, and soon some hanging lights (see below).

Make your space festive! Add some hanging lights (these are my favorites) and decorate around the area. Add some potted plants if you’re outside but make sure your other decorations can withstand the elements. My uncle’s Biergarten in Germany is a converted attic where he put in a few small tables, built a bar area, and decorated it with sports posters and games. He’s up there watching the latest soccer matches with friends and enjoying a few beers probably right now.

Add music but don’t overwhelm your guests with it! This one is a tricky one. In my youth, I liked going to bars where bands were playing and they blasted the volume. It was cool back then but now I’d rather hang with friends and hear music at a more reasonable level. If you’ve ever been to an Oktoberfest where they have live bands playing, they’re usually a brass band that’s loud enough for everyone to hear but quiet enough for you to have a conversation across the table.

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu00edk on

Fostering Gemütlichkeit

Gemütlichkeit is something that you can feel by yourself but it’s more fun with friends and family! It’s just fun to have neighbors, friends, family drop by your place for a beer or two. Sometimes that’s too random but you can always plan a small get-together.

Here are some ideas to get the party started!

Host a Brewday. What I like to do is host a Brewday and have friends come over to help and hang out with a beer during the mash or during the boil. They turn out to be great fun days and we still talk about them to this day. Just make sure that the Brewmaster stays a bit clear in the head, you can ruin a batch of beer real fast if you mess up from having “too much party.”

Host a BBQ. This is the standard way, host a BBQ and invite friends over for some food and drinks in your Biergarten. The best part, you can offer your guests some of your homebrew, if it’s good. I can always tell which homebrew batch is my guest’s favorite, it’s the one where I have nothing left for myself!

Do a “Layover.” We’re always running from one place to another. If you’re planning a Ladies’ night out or meeting up with the boys later, how about meeting up with everyone at your “space” for some pre-fun activities.

I shared just a few ideas and tips but there are probably 100’s more out there. Feel free to use these as a starting point but always remember that Gemütlichkeit is really about you and your happiness. It makes it so much better if you can share that with some friends, family, or a special person in your life.

Interested in brewing your own beer? Check out Brewer’s Friend for great recipes and how-to’s.