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Vive New Brunswick

New Brunswick, Canada: By and for New Brunswickers, everyone else take off eh!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On more important topics...

This item is for the commentor awhile back who was complaining, among other things, that among our rising taxes, is now the tax on alcohol. For those who enjoy a snifter or a mug, we can only look back fondly on the days of yore, when rum was shipped up here in kegs. Historically, a lot of emphasis is placed on the suffragette movement of the 1800's, where temperance and womens rights were on the foreburner. However, the main effort of those women was placed squarely on the evils of alcohol BECAUSE of the lack of women's rights. Since women had no rights, men would often get quite inebriated and do all manner of dastardly deeds that endangered house and home. In drunken gambling a man could sign away the family home and the woman could only grimace as she packed her bags, destined for the street.

At the other end we see the incredible employment power of the distillery, brewery and winery. In 1850 there were 10,000 distillers of whiskey in the state of Kentucky, today there is one-Wild Turkey, which employs 600 people. In 1850 there would have to have been at least 10,000 jobs in the trade, probably more. Thanks to regulation and regulation, the same has occurred the world over. I can remember my grandfather saying how after the war he came to Canada to escape the mind numbing bureaucracy of England, in his final days he lamented that Canada was following in due course.

However, for all those lovers of spirits there is still some good news. That, of course, is the brew your own industry. To my mind I can't even imagine why anybody would buy a bottled beer unless it was to support a couple of homegrown success stories like Moosehead or the Pumphouse Pub. Molson and Labatt products have about as much character as an actuary!

If you haven't brewed your own beer then you are missing out. The tools you need cost no more than the price of a couple of cases. The Scoop and Save in Fredericton is a veritable wonder of home brewing products. All you need is a big plastic bucket with spout (usually around $15) and, well, the kit. Of the kit there are so many kinds that it is worthwhile to look at what you enjoy and then search for a similar 'brand'. It's also worthwhile taking a look at good homebrew sites like "realbeer.com" With a cheap kit and tap water you can have 60 beers for around $20, depending on your tastes. I heartily recommend not following the directions completely, for example, NEVER use sugar. Not unless you have the patience of Job. Typically, I am gone through most of the bottles by the time the 'minimal carbonating period' has just ended.

The best thing, of course, is to involve your friends. This will cut down on production costs quite effectively. Only one of the 'reuseable' pieces of equipment is necessary. Especially if you invest a little more for the big glass bottles called 'carboys' which are also around $15. Say a group of four buddies want to do some brewing. Only one bucket is necessary, which means a cost of $4 each. Then, each fella can have his own one or two glass carboys. This is because the bucket, or 'primary fermenter' is only used for about 4 or 5 days, then the yeast is done its eating (for the most part). Then the beer goes into the glass carboy and another one can be done in the bucket. The beer stays in the glass carboy about two weeks and it's ready to bottle.

When it comes to bottling, don't listen to the old rubes. Just head down to the recycling centre and start picking out 2 litre plastic bottles with the caps. Clean them out real good, and that saves TONS of time at the bottling end. The entire process takes about three hours at the most, and you get dirt cheap beer or wine.

The most important thing in home brewing is cleanliness. Everything has to be spotless and germ free. I've just had to pour out 23 litres of beer because it smelled like crap. Unfortunately I now have to replace my bucket, as the stains are ground in.

This is not meant to take the place of the instructions, if you are going to try it then read the instructions carefully, however, there is no reason you can't create specialty beers for a fraction of the price of liquor store beers. For example, when I transferred my beer into the glass carboy, I first took ten bananas, mashed them in some water, boiled for ten minutes to sterilize them and poured it into the glass bottle. Then I filled it with my beer, and voila, banana beer! Of course anything can be used-apricots, berries, pumpkin spices, you name it. For dirt cheap you can drink better than the fanciest Rockefeller.
.

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