I Was a Teenage Homebrewer!
Tales of Youth Gone Mad on Moonshine!
by Ace Montana, Certified Professional Hellion
Nowadays, you ain’t Rogue Valley unless you strap on your banjo and walk your goat down to the homebrew supply store to talk robust porter. But back in the ’90s, “before it was cool,” I was a goat-walking banjo-plucking teen ruffian with a taste for the hooch, and it ended in disaster.
We started out innocently enough, romping through the hills with stolen cans of Busch Light. But once we had a taste of the devil’s brew, we needed more. And we needed it to taste a helluva lot better than Busch. Since browsing the Safeway aisle to find out what we liked was out due to our age, we decided to go renegade make it ourselves.
The mission was root beer. But not that sissy stuff you buy in the store. We wanted it real and hard like in the Old West, the kinda root beer that could make you breathe fire, and make Old Man Pabst wet his pants in terror. It was already called beer, we just needed to highlight its beeriness a bit.
Nearest we could tell from reading the pre-internet recipes, that meant more yeast. A lot more yeast. Five times more to be precise.
It was a mistake we would soon come to regret.
The high-octane root beer we made had alcohol all right. But five times the yeast also gave it five times the carbonation, meaning that the instant we popped the lid the booze shot out like a rocket, the brown gold geysering a full four feet into the sky as we watched helplessly in horror.
Having known the joys of many carefree summer days, we tried to drink from the bottles like a hose. We lost a lot of good soldiers that day.
It took a full third of our 26 bottles before we learned to point them into a bucket. But that just opened up a whole new crop of problems.
The first was the tomcat we’d found prowling behind our house. He could reach the bucket and had a taste for the sauce. He was walking sideways and giving mice a free pass in no time. The next day he had a hangover for the ages.
But he wasn’t the only one.
That root beer tasted like hell and felt even worse. It was less a hangover than a brain tumor simulator, and it started while you were still drunk. But determined to see it through, we were stuck drinking that schwill for weeks.
After starting down the road to ruin like that, you better believe we were scared straight. We stuck to the banjos and the hills and left the brewing to the professionals.
Now, years later, the wounds have finally healed and the siren-song of homebrewing is calling once again. For me and for many others. But before you put wort to carboy and start down that highway to hell, learn from my tale of woe: don’t overyeast.