The other day my buddy, Slim Shambles, shambled up as I was working on my lawn tractor. He headed straight for a loosely covered pail on my workbench.
‘Too cheap to throw out that rotting fruit?’ he snooped, obviously hoping for a taste of my brew.
As I told Slim, I first realized that fruit could be more than a sweet snack when I was only a child. One day my father, a devout miser, brought home a trunk full of cantaloupes the local grocer had condemned.
Unwilling to see such a rare bounty go to waste by letting others eat it, I dug into the acquitted melons with happy gusto. Although they had a strong zingy taste, they were delicious, like cantaloupe flavored 7UP. The more I ate, the happier I got. Years later I discovered that zing was CO2 produced by natural yeast turning sugar into alcohol.
Continued experimentation taught me CO2 can be explosive. I didn’t have enough pop bottles for the root beer I was making, so I bottled it in a glass jug. Unable to contain the pressure, the jug shattered, splattering its contents on the carpet. I rushed to suck up the mess with my father’s shop-vac, lest it soak in.
Sadly, the vacuum failed to filter out the carpet fibers, rendering the root beer nearly undrinkable. Even I might have discarded the stuff, had I not been competing for the prestigious “Miser of the Year” award.
Wine making is safer than making root beer, but one risks the disfavor of Her Majesty’s agents if one distills it into brandy. Distillation is a process that removes contaminants, such as water, from alcohol. These ‘distilled spirits’ can inject ‘spirit’ into a social gathering, or fuel your car.
Although authorities blame their disapproval on the explosive nature of stills, discerning taxpayers know better. Besides, when stills explode, there’s never enough left of them to prove they’re dangerous.
Slim lifted the lid off the pail and dipped a mug. ‘Is this ready to drink, or haven’t you rebuilt your still yet?’
‘You know stills are illegal, Slim,’ I said, sidestepping a prickly issue.
‘Hey, this is smooth! What’s it made from?’
‘It’s the oil from my mower.’
‘I didn’t know you could make wine from motor oil,’ he said.
You can’t, but I saw no need to ruin my reputation by telling Slim.
Then he grimaced, ‘Best tasting wine you’ve ever made.’
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