The national lockdown to flatten the coronavirus curve is getting really long! And with alcohol still a big no–no, many of Mzansi’s citizens are turning to home brewing to quench their thirst.
These seven weeks have felt like eons and household alcohol reserves have hit an all-time low, so some turn to Google looking for answers. And there they find pages upon pages filled with easy homemade brews with easily accessible ingredients.
All you really need is brewer’s yeast (which has become scarce commodity during lockdown), water, sugar and any fruit. People use anything from apples to bananas or the new Mzansi favorite, pineapple. But wait, dear friend, if you do not make these brews safely, you could end up with explosive guts, blindness or much worse from your bottles of homemade beer.
Be careful when you make these brews at home, warns soil scientist and our resident pineapple beer champion, Morgan Brand. Brand says sterilization is key to making the perfect brew.
Different yeast strains determine the effects the home brew will have on the body.
These are unprecedented times. The coronavirus can primarily be spread through respiratory droplets form coughing and sneezing and is known to linger on surfaces, along with all manner of nasty germs. That is why sterilization is key to the process, Brand says. This can be done by wiping and washing surfaces with some good old bleach and warm water.
“Starting sterile is the most important thing,” he says. “If you are sterile and careful in the beginning, you shouldn’t worry about the damaging effects, it should be safe.”
The next most important thing to get right for the perfect brew is balancing the amounts of sugar and yeast, Brand says.
“Variations depend on whatever volume that you are going to make. The optimal amount of sugar is between 14 and 16 percent of the volume of the container that you use.”
Yeast plays a central role in the fermentation process.
Yeast is a single–celled fungus and during the brewing process it consumes the sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). “The more sugar you’re going to put in your mix, the more potential alcohol you can get from it.”
“For yeast, use one gram per litre. If you’re doing 5 liters, do 5 grams, if you do 20 liters use 20 grams.”
Different yeast strains determine the effects the home brew will have on the body. “The reason you are probably going to end up with a bit of a hangover the next day is the chain length of the alcohol. Methanol is produced and can be produced in quite high quantities by these bugs.”
It is important to stay away from high pectin fruits like apples, berries and citrus, he warns. “These fruits contain large amounts of carbohydrates and that is what is going to turn into methanol. That’s what can make you go blind and hurt you,” he says.
Brand add that you will definitely know once there is too much methanol in your brew. “The moment you have one glass and you get a severe headache from that glass, that’s got methanol in it. A toxic brew!” he laughs.
If it hurts you after a small amount, you should know that that will be a strong brew, so be careful.
Brand believes that the lockdown has culminated in the exploitation of alcohol consumers. A black market has since developed and those who are dependent on alcohol are being charged exorbitant prices by illicit alcohol dealers.
“These bans have opened up a lot of opportunity for the black market to start selling alcohol and cigarettes. I have got staff who have fallen prey to these markets and the prices that they are paying are ridiculous amounts.”
“These are the poorest of poor guys and they are spending way more money in proportion to what they are getting. They didn’t have the luxury of stocking up bars going into lockdown.”
Here is how you can make your very own pineapple beer!
First things first, sterilize counters, surfaces and tools that you are going to use with a 1% bleach solution.
1kg of sugar
5g of yeast
7 litres of water
50 ml Molasses (optional)
Step 1: Disinfect and clean all surfaces and tools used in the process. Morgan uses good old bleach and water for this step.
Step 2: Chop up those pineapples.
Step 3: In a large pot filled with water, boil everything (sugar, molasses and pineapple!)
Step 4: Simmer down and add the reduction, including fruit and syrup, to container.
Step 5: Add 5g of yeast to 200ml of water and stir.
Step 6: Stir it up (or in my case, shake it up baby).
Step 7: Find the dingiest corner in your house and let that baby ferment for 7 days until it is ready to be bottled.
Step 8: Sterilize bottles before bottling pineapple punch. Refrigerate, sip and enjoy.