Almost every-time I tell someone that I enjoy home-brewing they are at first fascinated with the idea of making your own alcohol then nearly everyone doubts themselves and tells me “but I could never do that”. The American Homebrew Association established November 5th as Learn to Homebrew Day. While the AHA provides a recipe that you can brew in honor of this day AHA Link I would like to give you a “sea story” of just how easy it is to brew and the fact that you can do it anywhere even a CONNEX box apartment in the middle of Africa.
So there I was…. Deployed to the harsh environment of the African Continent with nothing but my deployment bag, an air lock and a packet of SafAle 05 brewers yeast. As a long time home-brewer, a three piece air lock has been a staple of my deployment kit with the hopes that on one of these deployments I would be able to brew beer. This particular deployment found me in a CONNEX barracks room with a reasonable certainty that I would not have to displace every few weeks, if ever. Understanding my living arrangement stability I began to seek my brewing supplies.
This base was also equipped with an Exchange. For those not familiar think of this as a tiny shop with limited clothing, groceries, drinks and souvenirs from the country. I was looking for a gallon water jug to use as a fermenter, but because of our location water was free and available everywhere in 16 oz bottles. The largest beverage container I could find was a one liter fruit drink. I do not remember the brand, but I do remember it was so bad that I ended up pouring out the contents and just using the container. Not surprisingly the exchange did not have any cereal grains, but it did have honey. The mess hall had a massive coffee maker that also served hot water and the salad bar had raisins. I had everything I needed to make mead on deployment.
- 1 Liter bottle
- 1 lbs of honey
- A thermos full of hot water
- A couple (8-12) rasins
To make mead I already mentioned emptying the liter bottle and giving it a good rinse. On a trip to the mess hall I filled my water bottle with hot water and pocketed a handful of raisins. While the raisins aren’t necessary they do provide a low tech way of providing yeast nutrients to the honey and water mixture which typically lacks them. Then back at the room I poured the honey into the litter bottle, poured water into the bottle and secured the lid. I then shook the bottle for as long as I could to provide aeration. I then allowed the bottle to cool until it was about the same temperature as my forearm. After the bottle had cooled I pitched the yeast packet and put the air lock on. I then waited several weeks.
Normally mead would ferment at a minimum of six months, but I didn’t have that time on this deployment. I waited as long as I could and then began to sample the finished product. While I have definitely made better and I am certain it would not win any award it was safe a palatable. Those few small sips provided a nice relief from the unbearable heat and stressful conditions of that deployment.
For everyone that has actually read this far and is aghast that something like this could happen on a us military deployment remember I said this was a sea story. For those that don’t know a sea story is a nautical fairy tale often told by Marines and Sailors. While the brewing portions (ingredients and steps) of this story are 100% true there has been some embellishment taken by the story teller to protect the innocent and entertain the reader. If you would like to know the whole truth of this story I would be happy to regale you with the facts and other brewing adventures over a glass of beer. Until that time try using these simple ingredients to attempt your first home brew.