The Brew Site

Apocalypse Beer

Welcome to the start of a new regular feature here at The Brew Site for 2012: Apocalypse Beer. This is a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) subject I’ve been thinking about for awhile and since nobody else appears to be doing it, I thought it was high time to tackle it. What follows is the introduction to “Apocalypse Beer” and I’ll be unpacking the concept over the next few weeks before getting into practical matters. Or as “practical” as post-apocalyptic brewing can be, I suppose…

Just what is an “apocalypse” anyway?

The original definition of the word refers to a writing or work which acts as a disclosure of hidden information, akin to a prophecy, and from the Biblical Book of Revelations it came to be associated with the end of the world.

Modern usage defines “apocalypse” to mean a great disaster, and commonly it’s viewed as leading to the end of the world as we know it. And while this sounds pretty straightforward, modern times and pop culture has given us a variety of apocalyptic scenarios to choose from:

Sort of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for the end times, and shows that we have a (unhealthy?) fascination (obsession?) with the Apocalypse. Or rather, it shows that we have a fascination with the post-apocalypse, as much of the focus is actually on life and survival in the post-apocalyptic aftermath.

One of the most common visions of the Post-Apocalyptic world is one of a societal and often technological collapse, with survivors banding together to scavenge, forage, survive, and rebuild. Often they have to start from scratch. We get details of food (foraging, hunting, growing), defense (weapons, fortifications, building armies), building (shelter, agriculture, attempts to recreate “lost” technology), but one question has been repeatedly coming to my mind lately:

Where are the beer brewers?

“What!” you might be thinking, “the world has ended and people are struggling to survive and he wants to talk about something as frivolous as beer?”

Well, yes, and I’m going even further: I submit that the brewing of beer will be an essential activity in the post-apocalyptic world! I’ve (half) jokingly been known to say that “beer brewing will be the new currency” in the post-apocalyptic world, and while this might be a bit of hyperbole, I do believe the knowledge and activity of brewing will be vital. Here’s why:

So while I believe that brewing beer will be a key element of both survival and rebuilding society (and I hope by this point you’re agreeing with me!), it’s also clear that brewing this “apocalypse beer” is going to be vastly different from brewing as we know it today. The basics are the same, of course, and if you have knowledge of how to brew already, then you’re already ahead of the game. But how will you brew in the post-apocalyptic world without gas or electricity to heat water? Or a thermometer or hydrometer to measure your beer at various points in the brewing process? Or even a kettle or bucket to ferment in?

How will you brew beer without access to malt or hops?

Right now in the first part of the 21st century there are a multitude of books and guides on how to brew beer — from a perfectly reasonable, civilization-is-thriving standpoint. But I have yet to see any guides to brewing from a survival standpoint, a collapse-of-society angle. To echo and paraphrase my earlier question of “Where are the beer brewers?” in a post-apocalyptic world:

Where are the post-apocalyptic guides to brewing?

The beginning of the answer to that question is what you are reading now: I’m tackling the subject of Apocalypse Beer and how to brew it. This will be the first guide to brewing beer after the world has ended.

Before we get started on the “how-to” part, though, we need to re-define our concept of “beer”. So we’ll be tackling that topic next.