The Brew

I have friends who are brave, courageous, and bold…like Robin Hood they wear tights and shoot arrows into things. In many cases intentionally. But they harbour a dark secret…they all want to be moonshiners.

Not necessarily with corn liquor stills, shotguns, and rusty old trucks…they set their sights lower – they try to make booze from whatever is available and they try to do it in medieval ways. Sometimes they succeed.

I can’t tell you whether this is illegal, as our state has a welter of alcohol laws that have developed over time and so many people who cheerfully disregard them. It may be perfectly correct to make liqueur out of chicken feet provided you are a member of a religion that wears feather suits and clucks. And certainly there are beer stores that sell you the ingredients for home-brew beer quite legitimately and the only consequence you suffer is gas.

However, that’s commercial ingredients and known formulae…it gets more dangerous when people take recipes off the internet, consult someone‚Äôs Uncle Marko, or just look at a pile of vegetables about to rot and decide to wing it. The temptation to mash them up, add yeast, and bottle the result is satisfying to start with but becomes increasingly less so as the bottles detonate in the pantry.

It is generally a case of over-egging the pudding…or over filling and over nourishing the yeast. There is a reason distilling is done in big metal containers and far away from valuables…the same reason that they make gunpowder in small batches in wooden buildings.

The danger of fermentation and bottling over, the next hurdle is storage. Storage space for homemade booze falls into two categories; too cold or too hot. You are either going to end up with a bottled version of the city compost digester or Picatinny arsenal in a lightning storm. If you have bottled in glass the shrapnel damage will be spectacular, but even a PTFE bottle going off will get the neighbours out of their houses and the dogs barking.

Finally you will get to the day when you can taste the results. There may be far fewer bottles than when you started, and the economic results may make each one the equivalent of Dom Perignon ’22, but don’t expect to win gold medals. Most home-made liquor is best cut with fruit juice, soft drink, or motor oil. A good 20-40 weight should do it…I always liked to use Bardahl if the homebrew was particularly new.

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