I imagine this seems obvious, but I'm not sure it is universal. My dad, for example, is satisfied with his brewing process and the beers he brews. I don't mean this as a negative--he knows what he likes and he brews very tasty beers. Lots of people are not focused on the educational aspect, and that's fine. That's just not me.
So, my basic plan of education:
- Read. Read books on beers and brewing (I'm currently finishing Mosher's Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass and John Palmer's How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time). Next up: Possibly Designing Great Beers and Brewing Classic Styles. Read forums and articles on brewing. Read the style guidelines.
- Brew. There's no substitute for experience. I think it's important to try brewing a variety of styles, but I imagine there's value to brewing the same beer multiple times to try to make improvements, too.
- Evaluate Beers. I'm trying to gather some great beers to evaluate using the BJCP's style guidelines. However, I suspect it's just as useful (or more useful) to judge less-than-perfect examples, and even bad examples. Most importantly, I need to compare my own beers to exemplars of the style.
- Enter Beer Competitions. This is an extension of the point above. The goal is not so much to win awards (which would be nice), but to get feedback from experienced judges and brewers to improve my craft.