Novelty Wines Recipe
Non-conventional alcoholic home-brews.
Wines attempted so far: Sweet Orange Wine, Dry Orange Wine, Tomato Wine,
Cola Wine, Chocolate Wine, Mushroom Wine, Ginger Beer, Earl Grey Tea Wine,
Banana Wine, Camomile Wine, Rosemary Wine, Bay Wine, Rose Petal Wine, Kvas
Wine, Muscovado Wine, Curry Wine and Chicken Wine!
Some flavours taste like wines, some like cocktails and some like alcopops
(and some taste foul!). It is cheaper than most shop-bought beverages in the UK
but the reason I tried brewing was that one can make all sorts of amusingly
imaginative wines. Alcohol levels are quite high at typically 15-16% alcohol by
weight which is closer to sherry levels than normal wine or beer levels.
- Start off yeast with water, nutriment & sugar.
- Sterilise equipment.
- Put fruit juice (or equivalent) & yeast mix in a demijohn and seal with
a bubble lock.
- Leave in a warm place until the sugar has been digested.
- Add more sugar.
- Repeat until it stops brewing at about 16%.
- Syphon into bottles, sweeten, seal & label.
- Takes approximately: 30 min work (mainly cleaning & bottling),
2-8 weeks brewing (depending upon the temperature).
|Fruit juice (or some other safely edible matter plus water)
|Sugar (including that in the fruit juice)
|Sterilising agent / preservative (e.g. 'Campden' tablets which are food
grade sodium metabisulphite)
|Dried yeast (wine yeast, not bread or beer yeast, for better alcohol
|Yeast Nutriment (this is just food grade ammonium nitrate but don't call it
fertiliser, even though it is, because it puts people off :-) )
|Sweetener (e.g. saccharin tablets or saccharin solution)
||0 to 80 tablets
|Second-hand wine bottles
|Bottle stoppers (plastic)
|Grapes, malted barley & hops
4.4 litre demijohn (or similar vessel) with bung & bubble-lock (or
similar air-lock). Measuring glass or scales for measuring sugar. Screw-top
bottle for starting yeast in. Wide nozzle funnel for sugar (a top section cut
off a plastic fizzy drinks bottle makes a good funnel). Jug or similar for
sterilising in. Syphon (preferably plastic because glass breaks too easily).
Somewhere to carry out the brewing where the temperature will be 20°C or
above (preferably 25°C or above) for weeks. A hygrometer (liquid density
measuring float) is useful to test brewing completion and work out the sugar
content of unlabelled ingredients but is not vital.
Detailed Instructions (using Fruit Juice)
The most tedious part of it is all the washing up & sterilizing needed
to ensure that is only yeast which grows!
- Set up the brewing vessel:
- Make some sterilising solution by dissolving some sodium metabisulphite in
tap water according in the ratio specified on its packet.
- Sterilize the demijohn by swilling around sterilizing solution inside it.
- Sterilise the bung & bubble-lock by soaking them in the the sterilizing
- Rinse out the demijohn with tap water.
- Pour 1 litre (i.e. one standard carton) of fruit juice into the
- Add the yeast.
- Add the yeast nutriment.
- Add 1 litre more of fruit juice (the reason for doing it two parts is
so that the first lot deters the powdery yeast etc. from sticking to the bottom
of the demijohn & the second lot can wash in any that remains stuck in the
funnel - it is just a lazy way to avoid stirring & scrapping with more
- If the total amount of sugar in 2 litres of fruit juice is less than
200 g, then add enough sugar to bring it up to that level. Do not worry
that it just sits at the bottom not dissolving immediately (it will have plenty
of time to dissolve).
- Rinse the bung & bubble-lock with tap water, fill the bubble-lock
according to its instructions with sterilizing solution and fit them to the
- Put the demijohn in a place at least 20°C hot (preferably at 25°C
or more so it brews faster but not so hot it kills the yeast (if that happens,
just add new yeast to the demijohn and move it somewhere less hot)) and leave
it. It should increase to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few seconds in a
- Wait until undissolved sugar has gone & bubbling reduces to very slow (a
bubble a minute or less) again. You should now have 2 litres of beverage
at about 5% alcohol.
- Feeding the yeast again:
- Pour another litre of fruit juice into the demijohn.
- If the total amount of sugar (in the fruit juice plus added sugar) so far
put into the demijohn is less than 600 g, then add enough sugar to bring
it up to that level.
- Put the demijohn back in the warm place and leave it. It should soon
(within an hour or so) return to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few
- Wait until undissolved sugar has gone & bubbling reduces to very slow
again. You should now have 3 litres of beverage at about 10% alcohol.
- Feeding the yeast yet again:
- Pour another litre of fruit juice into the demijohn.
- If the total amount of sugar (in the fruit juice plus added sugar) so far
put into the demijohn is less than 1200 g, then add enough sugar to bring
it up to that level.
- Put the demijohn back in the warm place and leave it. It should soon return
to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few seconds.
- Wait until undissolved sugar has gone (or nearly gone, the yeast might give
up from alcohol poisoning before finishing off all the sugar) & bubbling
reduces to very slow again. You should now have 4 litres of beverage at
about 15% alcohol. To confirm complete conversion of the sugar, use a
hygrometer or taste a sample.
- Bottling it:
- For once, there is no need to make more sterilising solution. You are going
to be putting preservative into the wine which is the same chemical as the
sterilization agent anyway.
- Don't shake the demijohn; the ugly sediments should remain at the bottom.
- Syphon the wine into the bottles taking care not to suck up the sludge from
the bottom of the demijohn or overflow a bottle. (A good source of bottles is
to volunteer to clear up & recycle the junk empty bottles from a party.) It
does not need a stopcock on the syphon tube to stop the flow when moving the
tube between bottles, just lift the bottles together with the tube outlet to
the level of the demijohn and syphoning will pause.
- Add preservative to the wine according the ratio specified on the
instructions which came with it.
- Add sweetener if required.
- Put stoppers in the bottles. Corks are traditional but plastic stoppers are
a lot more convenient to put in and take out and can be reused to reseal part
finished bottles. Just poke one into the top of a bottle far enough for it not
to leak, turn the bottle upside down and gently tap on a hard floor by using
its own weight dropping from 10 cm or so. I have not broken a bottle so
far (but I did break a corking machine before switching to using plastic
stoppers!) but make sure you handle them in such a way that, if they do break,
the resulting sharp glass does not cause injury (for example, definitely don't
lean on the bottle and don't push the stopper in hard with your hand). Even
easier and safer is if you can find screw-top wine bottles with the lids (which
are usually thrown away).
- Clean the outsides of the bottles if needed.
- Draw some labels by hand or on a computer, duplicate them by
or printing, cut them out and glue them to bottle. If possible it is
use a laser printer or photocopier than an inkjet one (even if it means
sticking to black and white) because inkjet ink is normally water
wine bottles are often handled in damp conditions (an
alternative, suggested by a reader of this site, is to spray
inkjet printed labels with hairspray to damp-proof them). For some
appreciate wines in bottles with neat full size labels a lot more than
small functional handwritten sticky labels traditionally put on
bottles. For my own bottles, I drew a label in Corel Draw in a style
deliberately suggestive of a Victorian 'snake oil' bottle!
- Deliver to parties, give to friends or drink. It is amusing to deliver one
just after bottling with "The vintage? Oh,...", squint at the label,
"... about 6 pm this afternoon."!
Detailed Instructions (not using Fruit Juice)
If you are using something other than fruit juice then follow the recipe for
using fruit juice above but put whatever ingredients you are using in the
demijohn at the beginning and add tap water to bring it up to the required
volume whenever the recipe says to add fruit juice.
There is a risk of the wrong type of microbe growing if the ingredients are
not sterile. In some cases the ingredients can be cooked (e.g. curry wine &
chicken wine) or brewed like a tea (e.g. Earl Grey tea wine and rosemary wine)
so just keep them hot until they go into the demijohn (I suggest boiling less
than the full amount of water, to save time & energy, and making up the
volume with cold water that is put in the demijohn before the hot mix so that
the hot mix is immediately diluted saving the demijohn from a thermal shock as
its glass is not designed to take boiling water). If that is not applicable
(e.g. banana wine) then it might be advisable to make up a yeast 'starter'
culture to give the yeast a head start. To do that just mix the yeast and a
spoonful of sugar in a cupful of lukewarm water in sterilised capped container
at least half an hour before the yeast is called for in the recipe then use
that mix instead of the dried yeast when needed.
Calculating the amount of sugar in the ingredients may be less trivial than
with fruit juice (where the cartoon label's nutritional information section
usually, at least in the UK, states the sugar concentration). Sometimes the
labels of the ingredients may have that information or it might be obvious
(e.g. there is negligible sugar in tea leaves) but otherwise one has to either
guess or measure it. To measure it, leave the ingredients in the water in the
demijohn, with occasional shaking, for a day or so before adding the yeast and
extra sugar so that the sugar in the ingredients dissolves into the water then
measure the sugar concentration from the density of the solution using a
hygrometer. However, it is not vital to know the sugar concentration as it is
only needed for working out the final alcohol concentration for labelling.
Sweet Orange Wine ('Bucks Flat')
- What? An orange wine. Bright orange colour. It tastes like very
alcoholic orange juice and is popular.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using orange juice. When brewed, add a
total of 80 saccharin tablets (equivalent to 400 g of sugar). Shake before
serving as with fruit juice.
- Why? This was my first successful brew. I used orange juice because
it was the cheapest fruit juice to experiment with. The amount of sweetener
specified brings it back up to the sweetness of the original fruit juice. A
friend came up with the name 'Bucks Flat' because it tastes like a 'Bucks Fizz'
(orange juice & sparkling white wine) cocktail other than that it is not
Dry Orange Wine
- What? An orange wine. Bright orange colour. It tastes like a bit
like wine and lot like alcoholic orange juice.
- How? Identical to the Sweet Orange Wine but only add a total of 40
- Why? A friend suggested that I was wrong to expect a wine to be as
sweet as fruit juice so I made the next batch with less sweetener. The result
tastes more sophisticated but I think more people preferred it sweet.
- What? A tomato wine. Rich, thick and bright red. It tastes like a
Bloody Mary cocktail if mixed with a little Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce &
lemon juice. It also mixes well with thick Dutch advocaat for a tomato omelette
flavour and lurid red & yellow stripy appearance!
- How? Follow the basic recipe using tomato juice. It is almost too
thick to syphon so it needs some pouring and it needs stirring before decanting
anyway to get up the thick phase of tomato juice which gives it its rich
texture therefore there is a lot of sediment in the resulting drink but it does
not show much. Add a total of 40 saccharin tablets during bottling. Shake
before serving as with fruit juice.
- Why? I first made it as a joke for party run by a friend who liked
Bloody Mary cocktails and then I found out that some people liked it. I myself
like it with, as suggested by another friend, lots of Tabasco.
- What? A total failure. It didn't even brew.
- Why? I tried brewing up a fizzy cola soft drink as a joke but it did
nothing at all. My guess is that the phosphoric acid in the cola drink killed
the yeast immediately.
- What? A cocoa wine. Clear with a light brown tint. I personally
think it tastes foul but a few people like it. A friend said that it tasted
like 'tudge' (spelling uncertain), a drink brewed rapidly from sugar & the
leaves of a native plant in Ethiopia.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using cocoa powder (defatted powdered
chocolate) and water. Optionally add sweetener.
- Why? I made this as joke for friend who liked fine French wines and
fine Swiss chocolates but whom I knew would be disgusted by this combination.
Personally, I thought that the resulting wine tasted really revolting but that
might have been because I mainly like solid chocolate for its creamy cocoa
butter component and this wine has none of. I made an advertising mistake in
putting "Warning: it tastes foul." on the label. The first bottle
remained unopened through 2 parties and lying in a sports hall kitchen for two
weeks because of that advert. It was only when I started pouring it away down a
sink that some friends asked to try it, a few actually liked it, and two even
took the rest of my bottles home to drink.
- What? A mushroom wine. Brilliant clear yellow. It tastes almost like
a conventional white wine made from grapes.
- How? Cook & liquidise 1 kg of normal edible mushrooms until
they are rendered down to a blackish slimy mass. Put it in the demijohn, add
water & follow the basic recipe.
- Why? After finding some people unexpectedly liked the chocolate
wine, I was determined to make a really outrageous wine. Mushrooms were selling
very cheap in the local market so I made a mushroom wine expecting it to be
foul black in colour and musty tasting. I was surprised when it came out a
clear elegant yellow and not very bad flavoured. I've even had a friend who did
not notice this wine was not a normal white grape wine until told.
- What? Traditional British ginger beer (which was a naturally
sparkling ginger wine not the carbonated ginger soft drink currently sold under
the name of 'ginger beer'). Traditional cloudy light brown colour. It tastes of
ginger and is fizzy. About 10% alcohol. Best drunk young.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using powdered ginger root and water
but only use 800 g of sugar in total so that the final brewing can be done
in the bottles. Use bottles which can withstand pressurised contents (such as
sparkling wine bottles & plastic fizzy drink bottles) so they don't explode
and sterilize & rinse the bottles before filling because the contents will
be live, not preserved. Add 0.5 tsp of sugar to each bottle. Leave it to
finish fermenting in the bottles a while to build up the fizz. Despite it
having no sugar left and no artificial sweetener, it still tastes somewhat
sweet because ginger itself acts as a non-sugar sweetener (I guess that that is
the explanation of why it came to be the standard flavouring of brewed
children's drinks in the days before artificial sweeteners).
- Why? Ginger beer is a well known home brew and used to be used (but
typically only at 1 to 5 % alcohol) as a cheap home-made kid's fizzy
drink but it is not currently available in UK supermarkets. There are drinks
called 'ginger beer' but they are soft drinks made from soda water with ginger
flavouring. Even supermarket 'traditional style ginger beer' is just the same
soft drink with cloudy colouring added. I thought I would try to recreate the
original style drink by adapting my standard brewing method to it. The
traditional method for ginger beer was very similar to mine except that there
was a nostalgic ritual of using a brewing culture from one batch to seed the
next rather than starting antiseptically afresh. The culture which was passed
down was called the 'ginger-beer plant' and was identified by Harry Marshall
Ward in 1892 as being an unusual symbiotic combination of Saccharomyces
pyriformis yeast with Bevibacterium vermiforme bacteria but normal
wine yeast is probably okay as a substitute. As for drinking young, it was
liked when new but when some bottles I laid down for 3 years were tried they
were found to taste foul (the opposite of what was found with banana wine!).
Earl Grey Tea Wine
- What? A sweet tea wine with a slight citrus flavour. Clear light
reddish brown. It tastes like iced tea.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using Earl Grey Tea leaves (about 8
tea-bags (which is about 12 g in total of dry tea leaves)) and water. Use
loose tea not tea bags so they can be washed out of the demijohn easily
afterwards. Add sweetener.
- Why? There are several coffee liqueurs available but tea liqueurs
are rare so I thought of making tea liqueur. I mentioned this to a friend who
suggested Earl Grey Tea as an improvement (it is one of the few traditional UK
teas which is normally drunk without milk). The result has been liked by those
who tried it. The first one described it as "It's good. It's like having a
cup of tea and having a drink at the same time.".
- What? A banana wine. Clear & colourless with pale yellow
sediment if unshaken, opaque and pale yellow if shaken. When young it tastes
like slushy, over ripe & slightly mouldy bananas. When mature it tastes
like a rich, smooth & sweet liqueur and not like bananas.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using liquidised peeled bananas (about
1 kg of bananas (which is about 4 25 cm bananas) in yellow-skin
state) and water. It might be a good idea to prepare a starter culture of yeast
so that brewing starts quickly because the banana pulp is probably not totally
sterile. For calculating how much sugar to add, ripe dessert bananas are about
20% sugar. Stir before bottling so that the cloudy sediment which makes it look
like banana is also transferred to the bottles. Add sweetener.
- Why? A friend suggested banana wine and bananas were going cheap in
the local market. I was surprised that the banana pulp and resulting wine
remained banana yellow; I was expecting it to go brown like cut banana pieces
or black like overripe bananas. However, although the colour remains good, the
resulting wine smelled, to me, revoltingly like mouldy bananas. The remainder,
considered a failure, got left it in a cupboard for 3 years before I got around
to clearing the cupboard up. When I found them, I gave a bottle to the friend
who had suggested it whereupon we found its remarkable transformation from
something horrid to something rather nice.
- What? A camomile wine. Clear light yellow. It tastes of not much (my
opinion) or strongly of camomile (by a friend's opinion).
- How? Follow the basic recipe using camomile and water. Optionally
- Why? I thought about making a 'herbal tea' (tisane) wine at the same
time as the Earl Grey Tea wine and happened to have a lot of pure camomile (a
daisy-like herb) left over from when I found it selling very cheap (by UK
standards) in a Dutch market thinking that it would give at least an attractive
bright yellow colour like camomile tea. It was disappointing that the colour
ended up rather pale and the taste rather bland. I keep calling it 'calamine
wine' ('calamine' is zinc carbonate used in the popular pink lotion for
symptomatic treatment of rashes & sunburn which is probably poisonous to
drink) by mistake!
- What? A rosemary wine. Clear & colourless with a slight pearl
haze (from the rosemary essential oil). It tastes strongly of rosemary making
it reminiscent (but less subtle, being a pure herb rather than a blend) of a
- How? Follow the basic recipe using rosemary and water.
- Why? I had a rosemary bush growing in my garden near my kitchen
door. I pruned far more off it than was needed as a herb in my cooking. It is
also one of my favourite herbs.
- What? A bay (the herb not the coastal geological feature!) wine.
Totally clear & colourless. It tastes of bay.
- How? Just like the rosemary wine but using bay (the edible herb
laurus nobilis not one of the other trees that are sometimes called 'bay').
- Why? As with the rosemary, I had a bay tree in my garden and hence a
surplus of leaves.
Rose Petal Wine
- What? A rose petal wine. Clear & almost colourless. It smells
mildly of rose.
- How? Follow the basic recipe using rose petals and water (brewing
the rose petals as if they were tea leaves). Preferably use dried culinary rose
petals rather than ones from an ornamental garden bush as modern ornamental
roses have been mainly bred for appearance and have very little aroma.
- Why? I got a liking for the flavour of rose petals from rose jam
from Turkey & Bulgaria. That is difficult to get in the UK and rose petals
are usually sold expensively for decoration but I came across bags of dried
rose petals on sale briefly in a local halal grocery shop. I then had so many
rose petals that I could even splash out and try brewing them.
- What? Traditional East European kvas (which was a light brewed weak
bread-beer not the sugary malty caramel-coloured carbonated soft drink
currently sold under the name of 'kvas' in supermarkets) but increased in
alcohol to wine strength. Traditional cloudy light brown colour. It tastes of
yeast, stale bread & mint.
- How? Make a basic kvas base by taking 450 g of stale dark
(pumpernickel style) rye bread, drying it in an oven (110 ºC, gas
mark 1/4, for 1-1.5 h), crumbling it, adding 3 l of boiling water,
leaving it 8 h, sieving it through a fine sieve (e.g. cloth), adding
100 g of sugar, adding 5 tsp of yeast, adding a mint sprig, adding
about 20 raisins, leaving another 8 h and straining. Then use that liquid
and follow the basic recipe.
- Why? I came across kvas first in Armenia. It is traditionally sold
as a refreshing drink on hot summer days from distinctive street carts with a
cylindrical horizontal metal tank of the drink. The carts are painted bright
yellow. When I got back to the UK I looked for it in East European supermarkets
but they were mainly Polish and in the north European former Soviet countries
the traditional drink has already been replaced by a very different drink under
the same name, a simple mass produced (Coke Cola, under local brand names, is
one of the main producers!) fizzy drink. That is much as has happened to
traditional ginger beer in the UK a few decades previously. Therefore I tried
making my own using a mixture of a recipe I got from a friend with tips from
several recipes I got found on the WWW and some experimentation. It tasted
closer to the original I had tried but was a lot a effort and was not as suited
to back home in the UK as on a hot street on holiday. At the same time as
making it to the proper strength of about 1% alcohol, I experimented with
brewing it up as wine.
- What? A muscovado sugar wine. Very dark brown. It tastes
overwhelmingly strongly of muscovado/treacle/molasses, more so than muscovado
sugar itself because the sugar has been brewed away leaving only the flavour
and rather bitter. It makes me think of what I imagine the dregs of a rum
production plant would taste like. I find it unpleasant.
- How? Follow the basic recipe with no extra flavourings but
substituting muscovado sugar for the plain white sugar.
- Why?A friend who was familiar with my weird brews suggested that I
should just brew up sugar then add the flavouring afterwards. I did not do that
because it removes the fun of seeing how the flavour & colour will change
(which is often quite dramatic & unexpected) in brewing but did give me the
idea of brewing from flavoured sugar. Muscovado is the most strongly flavoured
of the standard supermarket sugars in the UK.
- What? A wine with the flavour of a basic UK-Indian restaurant curry
sauce. Bright reddish orange and textured. It is smooth, tastes of ginger &
other spices like a curry and has a burning chilli aftertaste. It is generally
unpleasant in my opinion yet I have found a friend of a friend who actually
really likes it.
- How? Make up a basic curry sauce by frying chopped onion in
vegetable oil,, adding chopped root ginger and chopped garlic, cooking on low
heat for 15 min, adding turmeric powder (warning: it stains), cumin powder
& coriander seed powder, adding some tomato juice, liquidising &
cooking on low heat for a further 30 min until gloopy (warning:
splatters). Follow the basic recipe using curry sauce, chilli and water. Shake
- Why? A friend suggested this a joke so I made it and gave them the
first bottle for their birthday. My basic curry sauce recipe is a simplified
version of the one from Dave Smith's 'The
Curry House' curry fan site.
- What? A chicken soup wine. Light beige with an oily opacity. Does
not taste of much but has a savoury chicken soup aftertaste.
- How? Make a chicken broth by boiling up the bones, skin, cartilage
& other fleshy (not the feathers!) leftovers of a roast chicken. Strain it,
allow it to cool and scrape off the solidified fat. Bring it back to the boil
to sterilise it and pour it boiling into the demijohn (put some cold water in
first for it to mix with so that the glass does not crack from thermal stress)
and brew it according to the basic recipe. Chicken can be very unhealthy if it
is rotten so this wine needs careful sterilisation of the apparatus. When
finally syphoning it into bottles, avoid not just the solid detritus which has
sunk to the bottom as normal but also the remaining fat which has floated to
- Why? When asked about the ingredients of my previous wines, I've
joked "... it's okay, it's vegetarian" to vegetarian friends. From
that it was obvious to invent a wine which was not vegetarian.
Pedantic Health & Safety Advice
It is currently fashionable to litter any set of instructions with excesses
of safety warnings ("Riding your pushbike at high speed into a brick wall
can cause injury." etc.) so here are a few for this brewing:
- I don't accept any responsibility for any detrimental consequences of
producing or ingesting wine made according to this recipe. I give it to friends
as a joke not as a cheap way of getting drunk (in the southern UK there is an
easier source of cheap alcohol: nip across the channel to France and fill ones
car with bottles of plonk from the Calais tourist hypermarkets) and, as of yet,
I know of no one who as consumed enough in one binge to tell if the hangovers
are worse than for commercial wines. I have never done a chemical assay on it
for hangover inducing congeners. Even the ethanol content I have only estimated
from the amount of sugar the yeast has digested and some simplistic chemical
- The glassware involved in brewing can be dangerous when it breaks and
broken glass can be almost invisible in water. Also take care when opening the
- The pressures created (intentionally, as for Ginger Beer, or by accident
from bottling incompletely brewed wine) when brewing in bottles can cause
bottles (especially ones made for non-fizzy wine) to explode, liquid to squirt
out and stoppers to be ejected at speed.
- The demijohns weigh about 5 kg when full so take care in lifting not
to injure your back (and, less obviously, don't bump them on things as the
shock travelling through the liquid can be sufficient to create an almost
imperceptible fine ring crack around the base which wrecks the demijohn and
allows the contents to slowly and messily seep out).
- I have heard (but cannot confirm) stories that very slow winter brewing in
prisoner of war camps generated dangerously concentrations of methanol so wait
for the summer warmth. (Slow brewing in the cold is unsuitable for impatient
people like me anyway!)
- Excessive consumption of ethanol over time can cause lots of health
problems which are well known (and being permanently pissed wastes a lot of
- Excessive acute consumption of ethanol causes other health risks, hangovers
and increased risk of accidents (however, I doubt most people would want to
consume large amounts of these wines!).
- Oh, and ethanol is fattening. About 50 kcal per 10 ml unit,
i.e. around six hundred thousand calories per 750 ml bottle of this wine.
- Furthermore, the 50 litres of carbon dioxide given off in brewing a
bottle (and the 100 litres of carbon dioxide breathed out after digesting
it) add to the global warming problem.
I spotted a brewing kit (demijohns, bubble locks, bungs, hygrometers,
buckets, corking machine, instruction book etc.) going cheap in a charity
second-hand shop in the winter of 2001 so I bought it for experiments. My first
brewing attempt brewed ridiculously slowly. I asked a colleague at work what
could have gone wrong and was told that the temperature needed to be at least
22°C so I waited until summer and tried again. I read the instruction book
which came with the kit plus a few more books from a public library and lazily
combined the recipes into a minimalist one on the principle that anything
missed out by any of the recipes was not vital and so could be discarded. I
also missed out duplicate sterilisation stages and blithely assumed that cold
tap water direct from the rising main & ingredients in sealed packets from
supermarkets did not need sterilization at all. I tested the resulting recipe
on orange juice as it was the cheapest fruit juice available. It brewed well
and I kept adding sugar until the yeast stopped digesting it. From the amount
of sugar which went in, the amount left undissolved and the liquid density, I
calculated the alcohol content as being about 15%. However, it tasted horribly
bitter (as orange juice minus its intrinsic sugar would do) and I was too
impatient to slowly dissolve more sugar in it so I used an artificial
sweetener, calculating the amount to match the original sweetness of the orange
juice. That was how I got my basic recipe. The others are just minor variations
of it. Almost any food can be used because the brewing is mostly just the yeast
digesting the added sugar.
Although I had only intended the orange juice wine as throw-away experiment,
I bottled some up and took it to a party as a joke (my intended real
contribution being flapjack cakes which I had recently also experimented on).
However, the orange wine was unexpectedly quite popular so I made it again and
adapted the recipe into other unusual & jokey flavours with Sweet Orange
Wine, Dry Orange Wine, Tomato Wine, Chocolate Wine, Cola Wine, Mushroom Wine
& Ginger Beer in the 2001. In 2002 I added Earl Grey Tea Wine, Banana Wine,
Camomile Wine, Rosemary Wine Curry Wine & Chicken Wine. In 2006 I added Bay
Wine & Kvas Wine. In 2007 I added Rose Petal Wine & Muscovado Wine.
I also did a couple of other experiments in 2002 to test simplifications of
the basic recipe. One was the starter culture. All the recipes I read had the
yeast & nutriment mixed with a small amount of water and sugar in advance
of being added to the demijohn. This starter culture was to be made 2 hours to
a day, depending upon the recipe, in advance and some recipes had it warmed. I
think the purpose was originally to ensure that the yeast was growing strongly
enough from the start to out compete any rival microbes growing in the
demijohn, a requirement no longer needed in a sterile system. An experiment
showed that this was not vital (although it might speed up the start of
brewing) and so could be missed out and the dried yeast simply added directly
to the demijohn and so I shortened the recipe. The other was increasing the
sugar level slowly to enable the yeast to acclimatize to the growing ethanol
concentration. However, experimentation showed that this was not vital either
(possibly because the slow dissolution of the granulated sugar has this affect
anyway) but I left 3 stages of sugar (and liquid) adding because it reduces the
risk of initial frothing messily overflowing through the bubble-lock and
because (in experimental brews) less ingredients are wasted if (as with the
cola one) it totally fails.