Fermented drinks are the byproduct of agriculture. As soon as humans started to plant and grow, they started to experiment with the fruits of their labour. And oh, how bittersweet those fruits can be.
Although most evidence comes from the Fertile Crescent, believe it or not, the oldest evidence of beer and wine production dates from 7000 B.C. from China. In Mesopotamia, a clay tablet dated 6000 BC was found, containing one of the oldest known beer recipes.
Alcohol production is a process that is intimate to both ancient and modern human. In Ancient Greece, wine was the cure for melancholia and was used in many ceremonies and rituals. In the Middle Ages, homemade beer was even one of the safe sources of hydration and even nutrition. Today, the religious tradition continues. On the other hand, there are homebrew beer communities and homemade wine tastings bringing people together in a different but effective way.
By making yourself part of an orchestrator of the process, you get to control what you put in your alcohol. Your hands are untied and your creativity can flow through them. Experimenting with different fruits and herbs when you make your own beer, wine, gin or whiskey will help you create something unique that you’ll cherish, save and savour.
Knowledge of the ingredients you use, the satisfaction of making your own end-product combined with the sweet anticipation inspires conscious thought, awareness and respect towards this tasty double-edged sword.
Why be an unconscious consumer when you can be a conscious creator?
Does Alcohol Have Health Benefits?
“Moderation in all things.”- said Aristotle.
For alcohol consumption, moderation is considered as one drink for women or two for men. An example of one drink is 350 ml beer, 150 ml wine or 35 ml spirit.
An in-depth investigation into the health benefits of alcohol and moderate alcohol consumption started in the 1980s with the French Paradox when, compared to the USA or UK, low coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates were observed, despite high intake of cholesterol and saturated fat. One of the proposed causes was red wine consumption.
Fermented beverages like wine, cider, or beer contain significant amounts of healthy nutrients such as vitamins, polyphenols, and fibres. Polyphenols have a wide range of biological activities assessed in many in vitro studies, including decreases in markers of inflammation, reduction of oxidative stress, improvement of anticancer markers while some might even have anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties.
Polyphenols also act as modulators of the gut microbial community. Gut microbiota transforms polyphenols into their metabolites which are easier to absorb or more active causing inhibition of pathogenic bacteria and the stimulation of beneficial members. The differential effects of wine, beer, and spirits were examined.
The synergistic effect of the various polyphenols present in beer derived from malt and hops have been shown to exert a protective effect on the incidence of cardiovascular events, after moderate beer consumption by reduction of atherosclerotic biomarkers. Beer also includes a relatively significant content of folate and choline and trace amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, fluoride, and silicon.
European research carried out in France and Denmark showed that wine consumption is associated with a decrease of 24–31% in all-cause mortality. Studies in Scandinavia, Europe and South America suggested a possible protective effect of wine ingestion against lung cancer, especially adenocarcinoma
Last but not least, the distilled spirits should be approached with most caution due to their higher alcohol content and fewer polyphenols. On the other hand, by sticking to the dose your liver can filter in a day, there are some benefits you still might indulge in besides the rich tastes.
Whiskey, for example, is a source of phosphorus, thiamine (Vitamin B1), zinc, iron, niacin (Vitamin B3) and ellagic acid, an antioxidant found in berries that may reduce inflammation, lower the risk of obesity, kill cancer cells and reduce tumour growth. It can temporarily widen your blood vessels, clear mucus congestion in your sinuses, reduce coughing and wheezing and relieve cold symptoms.
It must be emphasized that only an adequate lifestyle matching moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial for your health. Socioeconomic factors have influenced many studies and their outcomes and the beneficial effects of alcohol can’t be reduced to one single factor.
What does every homebrewer need? The stars of the show are the fermenter and additional fermenting equipment like the lid with a hole and airlock. Next, to prepare homebrew beer, you would need a sanitiser, bottling and transferring equipment like vinyl or syphon tubing to move the beer from one place to another.
The longest spoon in your kitchen won’t do. Save your skin from unnecessary burns by buying an extra-long spoon for homebrewing. Mesh steeping bags are convenient for removing grain from the wort. To brew your beer without any boilovers, make sure to choose a large kettle that can hold a bigger amount of water at once.
In order to pitch your yeast, the brew needs to be cooled so a wort chiller would really come in handy. Another alternative is to chill your brew in an ice bath in your sink but then you’ll have to go ease on the kettle size as it might not fit.
Don’t forget about measuring equipment, such as a heating and cooling temperature controller. Products with high and low-temperature alarms are available, make it so much easier to relax and enjoy the process.
For homemade wine, the same basics like a sanitiser, fermenting vessel and airlock syphon tubing apply. A bottle washer is recommended but not necessary. Don’t forget the corks and corker. The process is easier than you imagine as 21st-century winemaking kits have all that you need.
The premium ones contain purely grape concentrate. Varietal wine kits such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc will impress your dinner guests and bring back the dining room magic straight from your own demijohn.
Other items in the wine kit include yeast, bentonite (clay used to clarify wines), occasionally oak chips to imitate the barrel aging process and a stabiliser.
Home Distilled Spirits
There are homebrewing supplies and complete distillery kits that provide you with all you need to make a high-quality spirit at home. Filtering spirits is a MUST as it purifies your product, making it possible for you to enjoy the richness of your gin or whiskey. After you get the neutral spirit, essences are added to get the desired taste that clones spirits available commercially. After adding a liqueur essence to your alcohol, you’ll need a base, smoother or sweetener to add extra levels of texture and flavour.
As the harshest of all, they should be approached with the most caution and awareness. Invest more in the process so you can learn to appreciate and savour different drinks instead of devouring them. By leading a healthy and conscious lifestyle, 35 ml of spirit might not do harm after all.