Apocalypse Beer: Which apocalypse?

In the Introduction I laid out a few Apocalypse scenarios and spent a few brief words on some basic post-apocalyptic survival activities. But before we can get down to the “how-tos” of brewing beer in this new world, it would be helpful to examine a few of these apocalyptic scenarios to get a feel of what we’re up against and to determine how likely it is we’ll be able to brew in each case.

Remember, for the most part we are focusing on the post-apocalyptic aftermath: there’s no sense in trying to find time to brew beer while the fires are still raging and bearing down on you, so to speak.

Jerrycan type cheap fermentationVessel

Asteroid Impact:

  • Example: The Dinosaurs, Deep Impact
  • Likelihood of brewing: Poor to decent
  • Why: Like other natural disasters, there simply won’t be much near ground zero, and a sufficiently sized impact is likely to eject enough material into the atmosphere to essentially cause a global blackout and worldwide drop in mean temperature, leading to a massive die-back of many plants (no sunlight) with reverberations up the food chain. Besides what can be scavenged, foragers will need to focus on smaller, hardier vegetation like lichens and tubers, and to cultivate your own food sources you’ll need to rig up some sort of generator and greenhouse. Or hydroponics.
  • Typical beer might be: Moss-infused sugar beer spiced with dwarf juniper tree berries.

Environmental/Ecological Collapse:

  • Example: The Road
  • Likelihood of brewing: Extremely poor
  • Why: Much of what we need to rely on for post-apocalyptic brewing is dependent on the environment: if we can’t grow or forage for ingredients for beer, your brewing will only last as long as scavenge-able supplies are on hand. And, if the post-apocalyptic world is anything like The Road, then you’ll be even more focused on survival and evading or fighting bands of marauders than you would during a zombie outbreak—not even mentioning the extraordinarily grim state of the environment depicted (hint: nothing grows).
  • Typical beer might be: Thin, low-alcohol ale brewed from canned yams or beets and seasoned with tree bark (if there’s any to be found).

Chicha de jora 1

Natural Disaster:

  • Example: Yellowstone Supervolcano, Killer Tsunami, 10.0 Earthquake
  • Likelihood of brewing: Poor to good, especially farther away from the disaster
  • Why: While a civilization-killing natural disaster will have far-reaching effects, the farther away you get from ground zero, the better the chances (environmentally) you’ll have for survival and brewing. The nature of the disaster will inform the brewing possibilities, obviously, so be ready to be flexible.
  • Typical beer might be: Blackberry dandelion wild ale.

Nuclear Holocaust:

Pandemic:

  • Example: The Stand, the Black Plague
  • Likelihood of brewing: Very good
  • Why: Pandemics sweep through the human population and while society might collapse due to sheer population crash, the overall ecosystem and environment should be intact, and technology may still be available—provided someone knows how to make stuff work again. In the rebuilding of society after the outbreak there will definitely be a need for beer brewers—and clean water.
  • Typical beer might be: Fortifying, full-bodied oatmeal beer seasoned with herbs.

Steinkorb Steinbier Leikeim

Social Collapse:

  • Example: Mad Max
  • Likelihood of brewing: Good to very good
  • Why: The collapse of society (due to war or other causes, as long as it’s not nuclear) may well lead to splintering, isolated pockets of tribes in conflict with each other; but ideally the environment will be mostly intact and setting yourself up a the beer brewer in one of these tribes will definitely offer you haven and protection.
  • Typical beer might be: Smoked potato stout.

Technological Collapse:

  • Example: The Postman
  • Likelihood of brewing: Very good
  • Why: Technology might have failed us, but beer has been brewed for thousands of years, certainly predating industry and modern technology. As long as you can find the raw materials you need (equipment, ingredients)—and you can—then the beer will practically brew itself.
  • Typical beer might be: Wild barley and heather ale.

Spent grain

Zombie Apocalypse:

  • Example: The Walking Dead, World War Z
  • Likelihood of brewing: Poor
  • Why: You’ll be spending most of your time on the run and fighting zombies, and the times you’re not engaged in those activities will mostly likely be spent foraging for your survival. Unless you can find some sort of farm or commune situation where you’ll be established inside of a secure perimeter with enough other people to afford the time, my recommendation would be not to focus on brewing.
  • Typical beer might be: Small batches of low strength, fruit-based beers brewed with whatever easy-to-forage fruit can be found while constantly on the move (berries, apples, chokecherries, etc.). But not “zombie juice” as my friend Paul suggested; that’s just nasty.

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