[Sca-cooks] brewing

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Sat Jun 21 03:23:23 PDT 2008

On Jun 21, 2008, at 2:57 AM, Ian Kusz wrote:

> Okay, this question is a little silly, but I'm curious.
>> From what I can ascertain, brewers use a special yeast, which is more
> delicate, and provides a finer taste.
> But....what if you had a fruit beverage....(something like Ocean  
> Spray,
> which is chock-full of sugars, or a fruit cocktail with pure sugar  
> in it)
> and let it ferment from yeast in the air?  Would the  
> resultant...uh...mess
> be safe to administer to humans?

It would probably be either A) safe or B) so unpalatable as to make  
safety irrelevant for any subject drinker with a tongue. Wild,  
airborne yeasts are unpredictable from place to place, and while it's  
easy for us to say period vintners and brewers did all this randomly,  
it is rarely the complete truth; they knew how to, and did, cultivate  
and use tested yeast strains. They just did it without microscopes, B- 
Brite, yeast nutrients, etc.

>  And what would it be called?

Wine made from fruit juice augmented with sucrose or other outside  
sugar source? We're speaking, loosely, of an English-style "country  
wine", I believe. Think about English berry or dandelion wine. Digby,  
as I recall, has  few non-grape, fruit wines with sugar added up to  
50% of the total fermentable mass: the cherry wine is spectacular but  
you have to age it a while for it to lose that sucrose-ey rocket-fuel  
taste. The rules are just a bit different, is all, from the all-fruit  
wines of the Continent, since the English climate just tends to  
produce fruit less sweet than in, say, southern France, and this type  
of wine is the natural result for that region.

> Obviously, out-gassing is a concern, so you'd have to open the  
> bottle, from
> time to time.  Or you'd get exploded plastic.

Purists would object to opening the bottle; once pressurized CO2 is  
released, there's the possibility of airborne contaminants randomly  
floating in, or even being sucked in via negative gas pressure. You'd  
probably want one of those water-filled airlock devices, even if you  
just had a perforated cork with an air hose running down into a bucket  
of water for gas to burp out into. But a brewer's or vintner's  
airlock, which is basically a small curlicue of clear plastic that  
looks a bit like the u-joint under the sink, complete with trap which,  
in this case, is for holding water until compressed gas pushes it  
temporarily aside, is probably safer and not expensive.

> And how would it taste?

Probably like rocket fuel ;-).

>  But the most important, would it be something that
> would make people sick?

Probably not; as I say, if it were so far off the expected wine  
profile, no one would drink enough of it to make them really sick. (I  
remember, when I was new to the SCA, hearing it said of a Well-Known  
Culinary Personage in the Kingdom, that her cooking wasn't dangerous  
in any pathogenic sense because it smelled so bad no one could get a  
second bite of it into their mouth...).

I'd say at minimum, to do this thing "right" and get a fair chance of  
what Fermented Hawaiian Punch "ought" to taste like, so you can speak  
with authority when your grandchildren ask you, is to get an airlock,  
transfer the juice to a sterilized container, pitch some known yeast  
variety, ferment it until visible bubbling stops, then rack/siphon it  
off the dregs, and age the result for three to six months to remove  
harsh-tasting by-products of fermentation.

This way you'd have a reasonable shot at knowing if it's awful, it's  
probably the Ocean Spray's fault, and not some unpleasantness  
introduced by you into the process. Not Knowing is an enemy of good  

Of course, making a really good mead by intent takes about five  
minutes longer than all this...

Ordinarily I'd say I hope this helps ;-).


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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