Better Brewing


Zubin D’souza

Tragedy has the capacity to make heroes of us all!

I was lolling about, doing nothing while simultaneously
pretending that I had too much on my plate.

It is okay when you are in the thick of things; orders flying about, frying pans being tossed at people and raging fires burning people and meals.

A lockdown deflates the rhythm; denies you the chance to rise to the occasion and be that saviour that everyone thinks you are.

It was right then that my
phone rang.

I picked up almost immediately; almost too eagerly. On hindsight, I probably should have passed the call on. It was an unknown number as most of the origins of my calls are. Of late I had been practicing my hospitality skills and so I downloaded the entire spiel as I answered including ending with “and how may I be of service to you”.

I should have bitten my tongue off earlier! It was the spouse of a colleague; he was threatening to commit suicide and wanted me there.

I was confused; as he planned his unceremonious exit, was he planning to have me as an observer to watch the show unfold?

Did I really appear as bored as I felt? Were my fake remonstrations of fatigue and being inundated not good enough?

I quickly rushed to the spot and sure enough my kitchen partner was threatening to jump off the roof of a relatively low building.

At that point in time I wasn’t really planning on calling his bluff and checking out the effects of the tarmac on his waif thin body as the two met.

The issue became apparent soon enough. The total lockdown had depleted his meagre alcohol reserves and he couldn’t do without his daily ‘fix’. He needed his ‘nightcap’ to function; sleep had eluded him and cold turkey had made him delusional.

He wasn’t a hardcore alcoholic according to him but I am not in the habit of believing people who think that a life without alcohol isn’t a life worth living.

He just needed access to beer.

He managed the deprivation for the initial couple of weeks but then the drought proved more than he could handle.

I couldn’t help him immediately; being teetotal myself, there wasn’t any alcohol in my apartment and he had already attempted the next best alternative which was trying to extract alcohol from hand sanitizer.

A brainwave struck me and I promised him that if he returned to ‘terra firma’ I would share with him the secrets of brewing the best beverages at home.

He could save on the costs; he could make it stronger or lighter as he preferred and he could even
sell some on the sly to augment
his income.

It worked! He got down and my share of the pact with the devil had to be honoured.

Recipes and equipment for home brewing are available almost everywhere. Where there is a dearth of equipment, simple tweaks to basic kitchen equipment could create fantastic results.

You need a plastic pail with a lid for creating the basic mash, a vinyl siphon hose or in a pinch you can yank out the old copper tubing from a discarded refrigerator, a clamp for the siphon, a dozen two litre plastic bottles with caps and a basic hydrometer and thermometer.

The trick to a great product comes down to only two things – sanitization and ingredients.

Hygienic practices will ensure that your beer will take you on an enjoyable little trip; the other option is a shorter trip to the hospital.

Boil water, toss in malt extract and sugar and cook for about twenty minutes. Pour it in the pail and when it drops down to room temperature, add more sugar and yeast.

Make sure your yeast is fresh; if it was sitting in the fridge for too long you may as well add it to another container called the garbage can!

Place the lid on lightly so that the build-up of carbon dioxide doesn’t cause the pail to explode. Keep this for about a week in a cool and dark place and then use the siphon hose to shift the liquid to the plastic bottles. Make sure not to disturb the sediments at the bottom or you will get gritty tasting beer.

Add some more sugar to the liquid in the bottles and keep them back in a cool, dark place before drinking up.

The fizz would last for two weeks and it is important not to drink up the entire bottle because there may be sediments lurking at the bottom.

Beers also do well with added flavour like an infusion of herbal teas or just herbs or liquorice.

I finished giving my two cents which I hoped was going to be spent wisely. I reassured my comrade that I was always around should I be needed and turned to leave.

A sharp cry stopped me dead in my tracks! I turned around and saw half the neighbourhood on the roof poised to jump!

Beer wasn’t going to cut it for them and they wanted methods to distil their choice of firewater!

I heaved a long and sad sigh; it seemed that it was going to be a long night!