Home brewing: there's life beyond pineapple beer

The lockdown booze ban has given me a newfound appreciate for all sorts of fruit

14 May 2020 - 00:00
Apart from the fun aspect of home brewing, it’s easy on the pocket - especially if you use seasonal produce.
Apart from the fun aspect of home brewing, it’s easy on the pocket - especially if you use seasonal produce.
Image: 123RF/Oleksiy Boyko

I used to call pineapple the “if and but fruit” because I could come up with so many reasons for not buying one when passing a pile at my local greengrocer. Why? It’s a rather cumbersome beast and such messy work to get to the heart of the fruit.

In recent times though, I’ve changed my perspective on pineapple and developed a newfound respect for this almost prehistoric-looking fruit — and it seems I’m not alone.

In the seven weeks of lockdown, the demand for pineapple has skyrocketed so much so that it’s made headlines, with prices at a record high.

The reason is simple: thanks to the extended alcohol ban, everyone’s been brewing up pineapple beer at home.

The pineapple frenzy has brought back many memories of my childhood in Durban. This tropical fruit was a refreshing treat in that awfully hot and humid climate - especially on days spent at the beach, when my mother would dip slices of it in seawater.

My mother and her friend, Betty, would make a mean pineapple beer in summer, which they’d serve ice cold with a slice of pineapple dusted with a dash of chilli spice when they were feeling posh. They’d say it was for adults only when we’d ask for some — there were seven of us between them, so no wonder they needed a drink — but, of course, we’d sneak some on the QT.

Being housebound during lockdown has meant I’ve been doing lots of cooking, eating way too much and brewing up batches of pineapple beer.

The first attempt - a yellow-coloured, sweet cordial-type drink - didn’t quite cut the mustard. The latest is a way more translucent liquid. Like a proper alcoholic drink, it offers a good kick - and, interestingly, there isn’t a hint of pineapple.

Mastering the art of making pineapple beer has stirred me to turn to other fruits that can be made in boozy drinks - the latest being apples and apple cider.

The Americans make an unfermented apple juice they call cider, a non-alcoholic drink, whereas the English are famous for their boozy ciders, which are made using yeast and some of which are quite potent. It’s the latter that I wanted to replicate — here’s the recipe. I used tart Granny Smith apples with a mix of Pink Lady, slightly sweeter with a tart bite, and some Golden Delicious for sweetness.

As with everything in life, I’ve discovered that the more you brew, the better the outcome. So I’ll happily keep experimenting, even once the alcohol ban is lifted.

I’m tempted to try making my own vodka using potatoes - but in the meantime, my lemon tree is dripping with yellow beauties, so it’ll be that Italian classic limoncello next.

A word of caution: home brews can become undrinkable if stored incorrectly or for too long. If there is any fungal growth, if the brew tastes "off" or has an unpleasant smell beyond the yeast undertones, don't take any chances: rather throw it away. Also ensure that whatever utensils you use to home brew are scrupulously clean; sterilising them in boiling water is best.