"You can have that if you want."
A couple of the guys and I were helping this cute chick and her room mate move. She was pointing at a humongous glass bottle. It was thick and heavy, shaped like a huge bottle that should be capped. It could hold twenty gallons and was cumbersome. We barely fit it in the car but I thanked her and carried it home.
"Whatcha gonna do with that?" asked G---.
"We're gonna make beer," I answered with a smile.
"Yeah, we can make our own brew. Read about it in organic chemistry. College comes in handy at times. It doesn't take much."
"Well, I'm game," said G---. "How do we go about it?"
"First we'll have to find a place to hide this vat."
All along Folly Road we tried to come up with a hiding place. Finally, G-- said, "We can hide it where we always do. The hollow tree next to your house. That booze has been there for a long time. Nobody's found it yet."
"True," I said. I had no idea my dad had found the cache of liquor long before but never said a word. It was years later he told me he had stumbled across the bottles in the bag of cotton weave. He never said much.
"Let's go stash this while my folks are at work." Why I thought my parents would mind if I made beer I don't know. It was a hold over from high school. I'm betting my dad would have been curious about the brewing of beer and joined in. It could hae been fun.
Arriving at the house we pulled the vat from the car and stashed it beside the tree which was partially hidden by the heavy growth of weeds in that lot.
"So, whatta we need now?"
"Some malt extract and sugar. Like I said, it ain't much," I told G-- as we climbed back into the car. "We should be able to find that at the Pig."
"They sell beer mixin's?" G-- was astonished. Me? I was playing my superior knowledge to the hilt.
"Oh, yeah. We get a can of malt extract, a bunch of five pound bags of sugar and we got beer in about a week." I smiled, proud of my college education. We arrived at the Pig.
Inside I pointed at the shelf.
"See? That's it. That's what we need. I'll get this while you get the sugar," I said reaching for the can on the top shelf.
"Maybe I better get that," said G-- easily reaching the can. My jumping to reach the top shelf was his cue to pick it up since he was a foot taller. The sugar, which was on the bottom shelf, was more my speed. He chuckled as I picked up four bags.
"That's it?" he asked incredulously.
"Yup, that's it."
"Is this legal, Rick?"
"Who cares," said I. "We get free beer in a week. You worried?"
"Nope, just curious."
We rolled the cart to the register. The girl rang up the contents.
"Is that all?" she asked.
"Yup, that's it." I took the bag and we walked to the car. I was looking back to see if she might be calling the police. She took no further notice of us. I shoved th bag in the back seat. We drove back to the house.
"How are you going to get that stuff into the vat?" G-- was always so practical.
"We'll pour it in."
"That opeing is mighty small. Won't you need a funnel?"
I looked at him. I turned the car around to drive to the hardware store. We went in to find a funnel.
"I got one," said G--. We paid for it and headed back to the hous.
"You got a cork to put in that opening?"
"Yeah, won't you have to close it up?"
I looked at him. I turned th car around to return to the hardware store.
"Weren't you just here?" asked the clerk.
"Yeah, we're looking for a cork now. About this big," I gestured.
"Over there in the fishing tackle." He pointed the way.
"Now we're set."
Upon arriving at the house, G-- took the ingredients and the funnel to the hidden vat.
"Hey, get a can opener," he yelled at me.
I joined him next to the vat, can opener in hand.
"While I'm pouring this into the jug, why don't you start bringing water out?'
"Oh, yeah. We'll need water."
He punctured the malt can and turned it up to the funnel sitting in the neck of the vat. It slowly glugged into the funnel.
I returned carrying the largest pot I could find full of water.
"This stuff is still draining. It's thick."
"Maybe we can dilute it with the water."
I poured some into the funnel. It helped a little. After fifty trips G-- said, "Can't you think of some other way to fill this thing? It isn't even half full and you've been back and forth a lot."
"Kin try it."
I walked to the spigot. The hose was attached but wouldn't quite reach. We corked the vat and piled into the car. Back to the hardwares store we went.
"You guys again?"
"Yup, we need a hose now."
G-- had picked up the longest coil of hose they had.
"This ought to do it," he said.
Back at the house I attached it to the one already along side the house.
G-- turned it on. Out came brown water.
"Yuck. That doesn't look good," G-- said.
"It'll clear up." Soon enough it was clear water gushing out.
"I don't know, Rick. That doesn't seem so good."
"That yeast will be producing alcohol. Alcohol kills germs. No problem."
"Yeast? You never said anything about yeast," said G--.
I looked at him. We turned off the water, corked the vat and climbed into the car. At the Pig we chose packets of yeast and paid at the front. The same cashier looked at us funny.
"Think she's suspicious?" I asked, looking back as we left.
"Of what? That we are stupid. I think she's already figured that out. Now, is there anything else we need before getting back to the vat?"
"Nope. This should do it."
At the house G-- dropped in the yeast from the packets while I turned the water on. The hose delivered enough water to fill the jug quickly. I carried the hose back to the spigot. I turned off the water and returned.
G-- slapped the cork into the neck giving it a couple of hard hits to hold it tight.
"We don't want anything getting into that brew," he said with one final hit.
Each day after filling it we checked to see how our beer was coming along.
The third day, as we were walking to the spot, there was a loud boom followed by a crack above us. A limb dropped next to the vat. We ran to the jug. The air was pregnant with fermentation. The cork was gone. The carbon dioxide build up had shot it into the treetop hard enough to break a small limb which lay at our feet.
"Man am I glad I wasn't standing over that thing. It coulda killed us. What do we do now?"
"Oh, yeah. Gas build up," I said lost in thought. "We should have had a top that allowed for gas build up. Some muslin or cloth of some kind to cover it while allowing for gas release. I forgot."
"Your forgettin' is a pain in the ass, Croucher. Let's go get some muslin."
We found some that day and placed it over the jug. We contacted another friend who had a bottling apparatus so we could bottle and cap our concoction.
Seven days later we decided it was time enough. We siphoned off a glass.
"It's kinda cloudy, G--. Whatchoo think?"
"Give it a taste."
"Here, why don't you try it. You're the beer connnysewer."
"Let's let it sit a bit so that stuff floatin' can settle."
"OK. Let's set up the bottler and start putting it up. That stuff can settle in the bottles like a fine wine."
"Sounds alright." G-- got the bottles lined up and the capper at the ready.
I sucked on the hose to get the flow going into the bottles.
As it started I was spitting out the grit floating in the brew.
"Ptui. Ptui. That's nasty stuff."
"You mean the beer is nasty?"
"I don't know all I tasted was the stuff floating around. It's collected in my teeth. Yack."
"Might as well use up the bottles here," said G-- sticking the syphon hose into each bottle neck lined up.
I picked them up and clamped a metal cap on each. We lined up all the bottles we had filled.
An hour later we popped a cap off one of the bottles. The aroma of fermetation assaulted our noses.
"Whew! Man does that stuff stink."
"OK, here goes." I tilted the bottle and took a large gulp. That mouthful reversed itself. Out sprayed brown liquid.
"GACK! Oh, awful. Hack cough."
"What the hell, Croucher? You just sprayed me all over."
"Here. You try it."
Hesitantly he sipped at the bottle neck. A split second later he sprayed me.
"Oh crap. That tastes like shit!"
We continued to spit as we looked at the long line of bottled beer.
"We'll have to let the others taste this. Don't think I want anymore though."
"Me neither," I said. "Let's pour it out."
When we tipped the vat it hit a stone and cracked breaking into several pieces. The brew spilled into the ground swamping the air with the smell of fermentation. The sludge at the bottom of the vat oozed onto the ground forming a slick brown puddle. I waited til much later to clear out the broken glass.
When our buddies came over to try the beer they each reacted the same way.
A brown spray erupted from their mouths followed by the words, "That tastes like shit!" And they weren't far wrong being as alcohol is the waste product of the yeast organism.
One of my buddies picked up a bottle and threw it at a tree across the canal. It burst with a loud band and splatter. It seems the yeast was still working and each bottle had a large build up of carbon dioxide. We each took turns lobbing beer bottles like hand grenades at the tree across the way. Each landed with a boom and explosion of foam filling the air. The smell lingered on for a day or two causing my dad to sniff the air and wrinkling his nose as he walked outside.
"Must be a skunk or something over in the marsh," he'd say when he came in.