Thursday, May 21, 2020


Michael - Thursday

It turns out that today is International Chardonnay Day. With all the different grape varietals out there these days, I suspect that every day is international cultivar day for something. Probably, however, International Pineapple Beer Day hasn’t yet made the cut anywhere except in South Africa. As part of the local initiative to lock down and flatten the curve etc. etc., the government here has experimented with prohibition. Presumably, they are history buffs and have discovered how well this worked out in the US a few decades back. Their justification for banning the Devil Drink (and tobacco products along with it) is a bit different, however. They have turned around the usual implication that parties lead to drunkenness to become that drunkenness leads to parties! This is not to say that we don’t have some puritanical people in our government who would be in favour of a permanent ban. In fact, the minister of police has noted that there has been a big decrease in crime since the measures came in. He was particularly delighted that arrests for drunk driving had dropped to almost zero!

Pineapple beer speakeasy. Note the 'ashtray'
When forbidden something they like and are used to, people find a way to get it, and there are plenty of other people who are quite happy to help them. For a price. So if you want cigarettes, there’s a flourishing black market. The cigarettes are more expensive—as illegal items usually are—but not that much more expensive because now there is no excise tax. Perhaps tax collection is booming here, so the government doesn’t miss a few more million dollars? Or maybe not. Wine and spirit manufacturers begged for the right to export at least. The government was dubious. The trucks might be hijacked because now the alcohol was like gold. But eventually they relented.

Nevertheless, thousands of gallons of beer had to be poured down the drain. It doesn’t last forever, and there’s not much overseas demand for the local brand. Terrible to see grown men weep.

Looks pretty good...
So back to the pineapple beer. While you can buy alcohol illegally, some people don’t have much money. What they do have is time, so they’ve been experimenting at making their own. You can start with anything as stock. All you need is some yeast to kick off the fermentation and away you go, but pineapples seem to be the stock of choice. Pineapple prices have rocketed 900%. Of course, alcohol is the by-product of yeast fermenting sugar. So rule number one is that you should start with lots of sugar, and pineapples have lots of sugar. Also, many of the by-products of fermentation are not particularly palatable, so it’s helpful if there’s lots of sugar left over to produce a sweet brew with the residual sugars drowning out the unpleasant tastes.  (The fermentation stops, of course, when the yeast produces enough alcohol to kill itself. This reminds me of what humans are doing with plastic.)

Still before...
Now, there are some downsides. Several people have died from their experiments in the pursuit of science. If you want really strong drink, then you have to distil the must. There have been some explosions of home-made stills. And sometimes you end up with something poisonous or leading to a massive hangover. But the great batches are really good (I’m told), so cause for a celebratory party!

Still after...
At the end of the month this may all change. Despite the minister of police’s view, the treasury would like those taxes. To say nothing of the fines for the drunk driving…

In the meanwhile, I’m sticking to the chardonnay. While it lasts.


  1. In the USA, Michael, liquor stores are considered essential and have stayed open. Great concern has been raised about the spike in domestic violence with bullies closeted with their families and lots of booze. Now some locales are allowing the bars to open, supposedly with social distancing (How does one drink a cocktail while wearing a mask?) Doctors have been warning that alcohol will erase the pub-goers' sense of caution and cause a new spike of transmission.

    Closeted at home alone with availability from a wine shop that delivers, I have changed my buying habits. Since it takes me three days to drink a bottle, and I am not ordering wine in restaurants at inflated prices, I have been enjoying the joys of some lovely stuff, including some great white Burgundies. The resident chef has been preparing good meals, some even worthy of the likes of Pernand-Verglessess!

  2. Wine rules! Cold dry white wine. Yes.

    Enjoy your days with such good food and wine.