BREWING BEER FOR A BRIGHTER TOMORROW
In this crazy world we live in, things are changing at an alarming rate. The threat of terrorist attacks, biological and chemical weapons, and the depletion of our natural resources are just a few issues we have to face. We’ve come to accept that it is not a matter of if a natural or man-made catastrophe is going to happen; it is a matter of when.
We know that when it does happen, those people who are prepared materially and possess appropriate skills will survive. One valuable, but underappreciated, skill set is the ability to brew beer or make wine, mead or other adult beverages.
ONE VALUABLE, BUT UNDER-APPRECIATED, SKILL SET IS THE ABILITY TO BREW BEER OR MAKE WINE, MEAD OR OTHER ADULT BEVERAGES.
Won’t we need plumbers, electricians, gunsmiths and mechanics? What about people skilled in reloading or making ammunition and people skilled at hunting and fishing? Yes, we will need all of those, but alcohol production in its many forms is just as important to the social and economic landscapes; and brewing beer is one of the easiest skills to learn.
Making a truly good beer is a craft that takes many years to master, but in a time of need, any beer is a good beer. So, if you can make it, your skills and products will be in high demand.
Beer is also known to have some health benefits. It has anticancer properties, can reduce the risk of coronary and cardiovascular diseases, helps prevent dementia and can support increased bone density. It can also aid digestion, provide some anti-aging properties and has been credited as a treatment for a number of diseases and afflictions.
When times are good, people drink. When times are bad, people drink. Alcohol affects people in different ways. For some, alcohol makes a frightened man brave (“liquid courage”), while it could make an anxious man relax. Alcohol can make people forget their problems, if only for a moment, or it can be used to celebrate a victory.
Beer can be used as a bartering tool— especially valuable in a time when money is scarce or even worthless. Because of the hops, which act as a preservative, beer can be stored for a fairly long time, even without refrigeration. It can be traded for other things you might need, such as ammunition or gunsmithing services.
When the stuff does hit the fan, and you have this skill under your belt, you will have one more advantage to help you keep going.
BEER CAN BE USED AS A BARTERING TOOL -ESPECIALLY VALUABLE IN A TIME WHEN MONEY IS SCARCE OR EVEN WORTHLESS.
INGREDIENTS: WHERE TO GET THEM
Of course, the company that has produced your beer-brewing kit is going to try to sell you its products. You don’t have to do this unless you want to. These companies’ cleaning solutions can be replaced by unscented liquid detergent (which is much less expensive). Carbonation drops can be replaced with common sugar (one carbonation drop is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar).
The plastic bottles these companies sell are brown-colored PET bottles. PET material is the same as some water bottles. Check the bottom of the bottles for the PET symbol. If it is there, then there is no reason you cannot recycle those water bottles—as long as you clean them thoroughly. I have found that some glass bottles with screw tops also work, as do mason jars.
The only thing left is the brewing extract. You can buy your own raw material and make your own “wort,” but then, you will need to worry about storage and the issues that go with that. I prefer to purchase an already-made extract, which generally comes in sealed cans and stores easily. These cans of extract are available from many different companies and are widely sold in stores, as well. They can also be ordered directly from the companies. I recommend shopping around to get the best possible deal.
BEER AND HISTORY
Beer and other forms of alcohol have shaped nations and political agendas for ages. The sailors aboard the ships coming to the New World were given rations of rum and beer. Our founding fathers all had their hands in brewing. The beginnings of the American Revolution happened outside a pub in Boston. John Hancock even drafted the Declaration of Independence while sitting down with his favorite beverage.
India pale ale (IPA) was developed by the British as a way to get beer to their troops stationed in India during the colonial period. This unique mixture of ingredients, which is heavy with hops, allowed the beer to remain drinkable— even after the long voyage by sailing ship from England to India.
A NEW VENTURE
Seeing how beer can help make things happen, and because I want to have as many useful skills under my belt as I can to assure the well-being of my family when “that” time comes, I had ventured into brewing my own beer. Surprisingly, long before the first batch was complete, I had people willing to barter items and services for some of the beer. I quickly saw how this simple product could be used in a time of need.
Before venturing into this project, I wanted to do some research. I visited some local craft brewing operations.
Although smaller than the corporate giants, they were still doing things on a much larger scale than I expected. There were large, stainless steel fermenting tanks and bottling lines. There were stacks of 50-pound bags of hops, barley, wheat and yeast. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. The way they were brewing beer from scratch was a complicated process, and from what I could see, it could be very expensive. This was not what I wanted to do. But instead of being discouraged, the more I thought about it, the more determined I became to find a way to make my own beer.
These operations were producing beer when times were good. There was electricity to keep their operations going. There was access to clean water and to the grains they needed.
However, what would happen if all of that stopped? What if there were no fuel to operate the trucks that delivered the grain? What if we got hit with an EMP, and all the computers monitoring production went down? What would happen if we lost the electrical grid?
If something were to happen, their entire operation would come to a halt. That is where other small-scale home brewers—including me—would come in. I was thinking like a survivor, not a brew master. I needed an operation I could pack up and move quickly if need be.
That is when I started looking at some of the small brewing kits.
There are plenty of these kits available, and they can be bought with very little investment. The one I picked up happens to come from a company called Mr. Beer. This kit contained all the things needed to produce about 2 gallons of beer. It even included the bottles. In no time, I had turned our kitchen into a brewery, and my first batch was fermenting in the tank.
Keep in mind that that this style of brewing—“extract brewing”—is not the same as the many craft brewers out there. I am not boiling down grain to make mash, as is done in all grain brewing. I am brewing with what is called “wort extract.”
If I had to get out quickly, it would be impossible to move bags of grain and hops, but cans of wort extract can be bought when they are on sale, stored with little room and moved quickly. Remember: I am thinking of survival, not selling to some high-end bar.
These kits are perfect, because they do not take up much room, and they can be packed up and moved. The small batches produced do not require much water. The boiling process can be done on a small Solo Stove, which burns biomass, or on a woodstove, if necessary. This means your operation can be set up almost anywhere. This is very important, because when things do happen, there might not be access to large amounts of water or the traditional fuels to boil it.
The most important part of brewing is cleanliness. Everything needs to be cleaned before and after each batch. If you don’t, you are likely to make many people sick—and that is bad for business. While Mr. Beer (a company that makes home beer brewing kits www.MrBeer. com) recommends using its cleaning materials, you can get the same results by using an unscented liquid dish washing soap and rinsing thoroughly with warm water. The rinsing part is very important, because you want to make sure you get all the soap out. Never use a sponge to clean your equipment—a sponge will harbor bacteria that can get into the beer.
Once that step is complete, you are ready to start brewing. The brewing process is pretty simple; it combines malt, hops and water to produce something called “wort.” Thankfully, this is pretty much done for you if you purchase cans of brewing extract, which comprises malt and hops that are already mixed together. Add the extract to four cups of boiling water, and mix thoroughly. Voilà! Wort.
While waiting for the water to boil, fill the fermenting tank with cold water and add the wort you just made to the tank. After mixing all of this together, it is time to add the yeast packet, which comes with the extract. Yeast is a member of the fungus kingdom, and it causes the fermentation process. Put the lid on the fermenting tank. Allow it to do its “thing” for about two to three weeks. Do not open the lid during this process, because it will spoil the beer.
After two to three weeks, take a small taste of your beer. If it tastes like flat beer, it is ready to bottle. If not, allow it to ferment for a few more days.
Fill the bottles, leaving an inch or so of space at the top. Add the proper amount of sugar, and put on the cap. The sugar reacts with the yeast to form carbon dioxide (“carbonation”). That space you left at the top of the bottle allows the gasses to expand. Let the bottled beer sit for a couple weeks at room temperature, and then put it somewhere to cool. Your beer is now ready to drink or trade.
The more skills you have, the better your odds of survival. Whether it is growing your own food, hunting or working with your hands, if there is a need for your talents, you and your family will have a better chance of making it. Brewing beer is just one of those skills that serves a number of needs and will be well worth your efforts.
WHEN TIMES ARE GOOD, PEOPLE DRINK. WHEN TIMES ARE BAD, PEOPLE DRINK.
WHAT YOU NEED
I highly recommend starting small; that is where a home brewing kit comes into play. The kit I bought came with a 2-gallon fermenting container, bottles, a can of extract, a packet of yeast and carbonation drops. What you need to provide is a 1-gallon container, 3-quart pot, large metal or hard plastic spoon, measuring cup and a large mixing bowl. You will also need to provide a heat source to boil water and a means of refrigeration.
That is it. Once you have all of these items ready, you can begin brewing.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.