I didn’t mean for it to happen, I really didn’t. When I went to Norway, I went fully with the intention of being stone cold sober for a full month and I was looking forward to it. Then we started making things.
First of all, we were making a boat: A big, aluminium boat that will soon sail around the world and has already taken the best part of five years and tens of thousands of hours to build. That was, after all, the reason we all went to volunteer in Norway. But then we diverged. I started working on a small boat and that small boat soon led to fixing up a canoe. We even made (humane) cat traps and felt our creative juices flowing.
Then we noticed how many nettles there were all around the farm and with a little bit of sugar and yeast, the nettles turned into nettle beer, almost non-alcoholic, but refreshing and cool during the warm summer evenings.
As the majority of our food on the farm was saved from the clutches of unnecessary supermarket disposal, we always had far more than we needed. Each day that we went to the bins, we would collect around 15kg of bananas and 10kg of apples and try as we might, we couldn’t eat it all despite our best efforts. We simply had too much food – how wasteful are we as a race that even the waste must be wasted eventually? Thus we decided to put it to use. As it was naturally fermenting, we thought we would simply add to the process. Surely this would be a good way to reduce waste?
For a couple of days over a period of two weeks, we chopped the excess fruit, then boiled it, blended it, and added sugar. As it cooled, we added yeast, covered it to protect it from insects, and left it to ferment for another 5-7 days.
After the fermenting process, we strained it and bottled it. Everytime we went through the process, we felt that we were reducing wastage and the process was addictive. Before we knew it, we had brewed over one hundred litres, some of it from apples, some from bananas, some from grapes and blueberries, and some from nothing other than sugar.
They turned out a little bit like this:
– Nettle beer –
cool and refreshing, almost non-alcoholic
– Apple cider batch one –
delicious, I would buy it in a pub
– Beernana batch one –
wildly potent and not particularly delicious
– Blueberry grape mix –
overly sweet and very low alcohol, but a taste winner with most
– Apple cider batch two –
like baby food due to increasing apple content
– Beernana batch two –
over fermented and became vinegary
– Fly (sugar mix, so named because it was full of flies) –
– Stinger (sugar mix, so named because it was full of dead wasps) –
rocket fuel (dangerously potent)
Then all we had to do was drink some of our produce. At the weekend, we sat out in the sunshine, enjoying our creations as we looked over the Norwegian countryside.
We were the kings of the world, building a boat, brewing our own alcohol, and eating free food from bins. Except that we had no control over the wild strength of our alcoholic creations. As the night of homebrew continued, we enjoyed the views more and more until one of our home brewers overbalanced and fell from the balcony. The result was unpleasant.
While this may look like the work of drunken fools, I like to think that it was the work of exceeding our brewing expectations and not having drunk alcohol for quite some time before this incident. We patched him up, kept him conscious for several hours and then laid our drinks to rest.
What did we do next? Poured outrageous amounts of alcohol down the drain and stopped drinking of course. It seemed like a waste, but more than that, it was fun making it. Next time, we might have to drink it under the balcony instead.
Disclaimer: Do not attempt to brew your own alcohol. As you can see, it is very dangerous. I use this story as an illustration of a happening of events. We heavily researched the process before undertaking the brewing process, so while I give the image of slap-and-dash alcohol brewing, I had some idea of what I was doing and was aware of how one may accidentally produce methanol during the home brewing processes (it is quite unlikely to be produced in large quantities without fermentation). If you watched someone doing something stupid on Jackass, you wouldn’t do that now, would you?