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Old 01-08-2013, 03:03 AM   #1
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Default Post-apocalyptic brewing (no CO2, no bottle caps)

As an intellectual exercise I have recently been interested in how I can make small changes to the things I do that might make them much more sustainable in a pre-industrial or post-industrial setting. For example, I learned how to make cyanotypes. I think it's cool to be able to make photographs without electricity or computers. After all, they made photographs without electricity for like 100 years, and without computers for about another 100 years.

Brewing beer obviously can be done without electricity or industry. You can grow barley, malt it, kiln it with wood or straw or coke, and brew it with wood or steam. But packaging seems a bit hard.

You can bottle-condition beer, but only if you have bottle caps. It might be possible to make bottle caps out of thin metal. Otherwise, Grolsch bottles. Or corks and wire bails.

For kegging, though, you would be out of luck without commercial CO2. You could naturally carbonate the kegs, but would only be able to serve a little bit before the pressure dropped and it went flat. I suppose you could put a bit more sugar in them and re-carbonate at that point...but how did they do it before cylinders of compressed CO2?

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Old 01-08-2013, 03:31 AM   #2
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For serving and storage I would be thinking along the lines of cask ale with a beer engine to pull a pint or two.

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Old 01-08-2013, 03:34 AM   #3
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You could always use/reuse plastic soda bottles for carbonation, assuming there's some around. They'd become incredibly valuable.

Also I think you'd wind up making a lot of wine from whatever sugars you could wrangle up.

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Old 01-08-2013, 03:39 AM   #4
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True; I have personally reused soda bottles/caps several times with good results. Colas and root beer transfer flavor; although I've heard that a weak bleach solution can take care of that.

I'm still curious how ales were transported and served in the early 20th/late 19th century. Did they actually have CO2 bottles? Did the beer just go flat and get gravity-fed to the glasses?

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Old 01-08-2013, 04:00 AM   #5
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Check out the history of draught section.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draught_beer

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Old 01-10-2013, 12:20 AM   #6
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As we say in the firearms world "buy it cheap and stack it deep!"

Bottle caps are cheap and bottles are easy to come buy!

The next part is pure speculation.
In a post apocalyptic world I would imagine distilled spirits would rule the day, and a nice stainless or copper still would be worth it's weight in gold. Not only could you use it for spirits but water also. Distilled spirits are a lot less finicky compared to beer. I mean they make it on the sides of mountains using rain water and animal feed lol.

Another thing to think of is if you cannot get CO2 or bottle caps what makes you think you will be able to get malted grain, yeast and hops (clean water also?) Unless you have the ability and means to grow and malt your own grain, you will be in a world of hurt for making beer. Not to mention cold storage for unused yeast and sanitation for your vessels.

I think most home brewers would probably still make there own brews but it would be more along the lines of mead, ciders and various fruit wines. (This is what I would do). Human nature would be to find what was available in your area and utilize it to the best of your ability.

I think quality and exact measures, and the ability to brew any style of beer you want would pretty much be out the window.

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Old 01-10-2013, 02:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Another thing to think of is if you cannot get CO2 or bottle caps what makes you think you will be able to get malted grain, yeast and hops (clean water also?)
The water does not have to be clean. Barley, as you may know, grows in the ground, as do hops. Yeast is wild; once obtained can be propagated from bottles indefinitely. Sanitation is an overblown concern; boiling tools, rinsing with boiled water would be sufficient even if you couldn't get iodine or chlorine for some reason.

I agree that beer would be somewhat luxurious item and wine and distilled spirits are probably more likely, due to the need to malt barley and grow hops, which are otherwise useless. Barley can also be consumed as bread, so beer only really makes sense if there is a surplus of barley or you have more than you can store.

Quote:
I think quality and exact measures...would pretty much be out the window
Why? The most sophisticated instrument 'needed' for brewing is a hydrometer, which is thousands of years old and easy to make. Thermometers are completely unnecessary because mash temperatures can be controlled by boiling / decoction.

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the ability to brew any style of beer you want would pretty much be out the window.
I agree; there's a reason all those styles originated to start with.
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:27 PM   #8
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In a post-apocalyptic world desired taste and preferred "style" are not really a concern, safe consumption is most important. Most ales hundreds of years ago where of a much lower alcohol percentage, just enough to have it reliably safe for consumption.

For storage you could build mini kegs, or clay jugs, that would hold a couple litres of liquid, or larger if able to be consumed faster (larger gatherings) and corked or have a spigot attached. You can sanitize by boiling or as they did for wine casks in the old days you can burn a stick of sulfide in the casks before putting in the beer to kill most unwanted organisms.

Barley and other grains would be easier to store through the winter months and into the spring, without refrigeration, where fruits and vegetables would have spoiled. Therefore producing more reliable source for fermentable sugars. Easy to grow in large quantities as well, wider range of suitable environments and grow seasons depending on the grain and variety. There are also wild sources for grains that could even be bred to produce larger yields and desired qualities.

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Old 01-10-2013, 02:39 PM   #9
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Removed post because I thought the first did nt post and retyped

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Old 01-10-2013, 02:54 PM   #10
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From reading Stephen Buhner's 'Sacred and Healing Beers', I get the sense that a lot of indigenous beers were brewed for festivals, weddings, etc. a few days ahead of time and consumed before fermentation is even complete.

The one batch of chicha I made, I preferred after about 36 hours of fermentation. No, it wasn't carbonated, but the active fermentation and dissolved CO2 gave it an 'aliveness' that was fantastic.

So not exactly an answer to your question, but another way to look at the problem.

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