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White papers and… making your own beer?!

At first glance, white papers and home brewing don’t have much in common.

But there are some surprising similarities.

To start, consider the clear, sparkling style of a well-written white paper.

Doesn’t that remind you of the crisp, refreshing taste of an ice-cold beer?

Beyond that, here are five more parallels between creating a white paper and brewing beer.

Plus, I’ve included some practical tips on putting together an effective white paper.

Think of those as a side of beer nuts to munch on as you go.


White papers and home-brew #1: Both take a good recipe

Any effective white paper must be carefully planned, with specific ingredients mixed together in the proper proportions.

You can create different flavors of white papers.

Depending on the flavor you want, you gather all the proper ingredients: the right topic, research, argument, call-to-action, and graphics.

Even small mistakes in your facts, logic, or campaign can take away from the appeal of your finished white paper.

And you may have some specific metrics you want to reach, like the total word count, readability, and publication date.

ingredients for beer

Any tasty beer is also planned according to a proven recipe, with specific ingredients mixed together in the proper proportions.

You can create different flavors of beer.

Depending on the flavor you want, you gather all the proper ingredients: the right barley, hops, yeast, and water. Plus clean bottles and brewing gear.

Even small deviations from the recipe can cause a whole batch to fail.

And you may have some specific numbers you want to reach, like the alcohol content, IBU flavor profile, and brewing schedule.

infographic on 3 flavors of white papers from White Papers For Dummies


Tip: After working on 320+ white papers, I find these fall into three main flavors:

• Problem/solution (chocolate)
• Product backgrounder (vanilla)
• Numbered list (strawberry)

And you can mash up a numbered list with either other flavor.

For more details, get my free infographic.

White papers and home-brew #2: Both take patience

Good things come to those who wait. And this adage applies equally well to white papers and homemade beer.

A white paper takes several weeks to develop properly.

You need to consider your arguments, choose the right evidence, and ensure that your paper’s logic is sound.

With the right timing, a white paper can catch a hot topic, support a product launch, or answer a prospect’s pressing questions.

But any document rushed out too soon may be lacking:

  • The research may be missing
  • The argument may be shallow
  • The writing may be unfinished

And in the end, that white paper won’t win many fans.

Hourglass on top of calendar

A homemade beer takes several months to finish properly.

You need to consider your recipe, choose the right ingredients, and ensure that your process is squeaky clean.

With the right timing, a batch of beer can develop the perfect flavor, support a special event, and satisfy a drinker’s thirst.

Any batch rushed out too soon may be lacking:

  • The alcohol may be missing
  • The carbonation may be shallow
  • The fermentation may be unfinished

And in the end, that batch of beer won’t win many fans.

Tip: Don’t send a white paper draft to your client or reviewers the minute you finish it. Instead, sleep on it. Reread it in the morning. Or get your PC to read it to you out loud. You will find some things you can polish up.

White papers and home-brewing #3: Both take a team

Creating a white paper and brewing beer are both team sports.

A white paper needs a team with many players:

  • Subject matter experts (SMEs) to help provide the content
  • A writer to assemble the facts and arguments
  • Reviewers to make sure the content is correct
  • A designer to put together readable pages
  • Marketing people to spread the word

If you miss any member of the team, your white paper will suffer.

I can’t imagine researching, writing, editing, designing, and publishing a white paper all by myself… and I’ve worked on more than 320 of them.

Friends having a beer together

Home-brewing also needs a team with several players:

  • Beer experts to help provide the recipe
  • A brewmaster to assemble the ingredients and gear
  • Brewing buddies to help with the process
  • A designer to put together a cool label
  • Friends and neighbors to spread the word

If you miss any member of the team, your homebrew will suffer.

I can’t imagine washing bottles, hauling water, boiling, mashing, fermenting, and bottling a whole batch of beer all by myself. And I’ve made many batches.


White papers and home-brew #4: Both take presentation


  Click to see this white paper

A poor container can ruin even the finest goods.

For a white paper, the best words can be destroyed by an unreadable design.

The design must not look like a wall of gray text.

To get opened, your white paper must have an appealing cover, like this one.

A white paper must feature a design that looks scannable, readable, and professional.

That way, your prospects will want to try it.

tasty glass of beer


For a homebrew, the best pour can be spoiled by a cruddy glass.

The beer must not look like the Dead Sea with something swimming in it.

To get sampled, your beer must look appealing.

A homebrew must have the right color, head, and haziness to look drinkable.

That way, your buddies will want to try it.

Tip: This site includes lots of tips on white paper design. If you’re a white paper sponsor or writer, feel free to pass them along to your designer.

White papers and home-brew #5: Both provide something valuable

Both a good white paper and a tasty beer offer unique value.

A good white paper offers insightful analysis, lively writing, and memorable graphics.

The value comes from providing the evidence, logic, and perspective to help a business person understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

A good homebrew offers a satisfying pour, rich flavor, and a pleasant aftertaste.

The value comes from providing enough fizz, taste, and alcohol to help a friend take a break, get off their feet, or enjoy a few minutes of pleasure.

home brew beer and white paper together

Conclusion: Brewed to perfection

Whether you’re a seasoned white paper writer or a homebrewing enthusiast—or both—these two pursuits share some strong parallels.

Both require the proper recipe, enough patience, the right team, and a good presentation.

So next time you decide to write a white paper or start a batch of beer, take a moment to reflect on the shared passion that drives both crafts.

And here’s hoping all your projects turn out “brewed to perfection.”



P.S. This article was co-written with ChatGPT 3.5

Could you tell? Here’s how I did it:

ChatGPT logoBrainstorming: I started with the topic and asked the AI for ideas. After three prompts, it came up with an acceptable set of points.

That saved me a fair bit of time. Instead of casting around for ideas, I jumped straight into writing.

Drafting: I asked ChatGPT to develop each idea. I asked it to follow my style, starting with a few sentences about white papers and then a parallel passage about homemade beer.

That was too much for it.

It kept smushing together both sides of each item into run-on sentences, circling back and repeating the same ideas.

So after a few tries I let it alone. I finished the draft myself.

So I ended up using ChatGPT to do a rough first draft and then rewrote just about every line. Three times.

Wrapping up: Finally, I asked the AI for a suitable figure of speech to tie the whole piece together. It came up with a few, including:

  • “The perfect blend of substance and style”
  • “Brewed to perfection”
  • “A head above the rest”
  • “Brewing up a storm”

I picked “brewed to perfection” to use in the conclusion.

Summary: I can’t honestly say ChatGPT “co-wrote” this piece.

But I can say that in only a minute or two, it saved me an hour of pondering and gave me some ideas to cover.

This proves again that a key strength of AI is to propose thoughts for a writer to develop.

This works especially well for a numbered list, just like this article, or a strawberry-flavored white paper.


Originally published June 22, 2023. Updated April 6, 2024

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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