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South Africa’s Deadliest Beer

When we were jokingly making memes and comments about how we wanted the 2020s to look like the 1920s, we were just talking about flapper dresses and calling people ‘old sport’… we didn’t think it would get this bad. Like the actual 1920s, we’re now dealing with a pandemic, a tanking worldwide economy, and – in some places of the world – temporary prohibition on the sale and distribution of alcohol, including my home, South Africa.

Now, I can’t speak to the other nationalities of the world, but from my perspective, South Africans have a very proud tradition of being heavy drinkers (not certain this is a particularly good tradition… nevertheless, it exists). So when bottle stores were closed during the first national lockdown at the end of March, many of my countrymen and women scrambled to either stockpile or come up with solutions to get blitzed during lockdown. Possibly the most infamous of these home-made solutions is pineapple beer.

Making pineapple beer at home isn’t a new fad in South Africa – however, this old tradition was mostly borne out of an interest in home-made beer and at least a passing understanding of the chemistry involved – something that the desperate South Africans of 2020 may not all have had.

The recipe is simple: add yeast, sugar, water, and a bunch of chopped up pineapple together and leave it for a couple of days, stirring every now and then. However, it seems like a few people didn’t get the memo about what happens when you decide to bottle yeast or decide to eyeball the ingredient ratios – as two couples have already died from this concoction, both of them having contracted alcohol poisoning after botching the recipe. Others have almost blown up their own houses after sealing the concoction too tightly.

Now, I’m not going to harp on too much about people trying to make their own alcohol, but governments have been regulating the production of alcohol for hundreds of years – so maybe it’s in everyone’s best interests not to bootleg? I’m all for experimenting with foods – read any of my previous blogs and you’ll see that not only do I love doing it, but I encourage adding ingredients with your heart, not with your measuring cup. But when it comes to fermenting your own alcohol – something that could potentially kill you, I say that maybe keeping a close eye on the ingredients is necessary.

I’m not saying that going without some kind of numbing agent during this dumpster fire of a year isn’t tough – but I am saying that if you’d take a chance at fatally poisoning yourself rather than waiting four weeks for a liquor store to open up again, maybe you’ve got a bigger problem than you thought.

That being said – I am a proponent of trying out new things and I think pineapple beer sounds incredibly delicious. But please, dear reader, be careful and do it for the right reasons – try brewing your own pineapple beer because you’re interested, not because you’re desperate. Do it because the flavour will be delicious, not because you’ve been stopped from achieving oblivion due to the government’s restrictions. Do it because you want to learn about these recipes and want to make sure you’ve gotten it right, rather than finding a way to get the strongest alcohol possible.

The recent spate of injuries and deaths from pineapple beer has had a needed influx of safety tips and expert opinions on how to safely brew yourself a batch of delicious, refreshing beer without blowing yourself up – so remember to read up before you attempt anything!

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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