Rumbullion and other fermented beverages

Being interested in beer and brewing, naturally I tend to wonder about the fermentability of various things, and for some reason I was curious as to what fermented molasses is called. Now, I of course know that molasses that has been fermented and then distilled is rum—but I wanted to know what the intermediate stage (the “beer” stage if you will) is called.

There are of course names for other fermented beverages, based on their (primary) fermentable source:

  • Grain: beer (duh!)
  • Honey: mead
  • Apples: cider
  • Pears: perry
  • Fruit (especially grapes): wine

After querying Twitter and googling it a bit, I found an answer: a fermented molasses beverage (pre-distilled) is called “rumbullion.” Ironically, I found the answer on this Yahoo! Answers page (the “Other answers” one), and it has some interesting tidbits:

Next, make sure you are using grade A molasses, not a second or third running. The grade A has a higher sugar content, and leads to a higher alcohol content. The ratio you will want to use is approx. 1:4 molasses to water, etc. (1 pint/quart/gallon of molasses for every 4 pints/quarts/gallons of water) I make an apple rumbullion, and use apple juice instead of the water.

Don’t use straight molasses, the specific gravity of the fluid is too heavy for the yeast to survive. The ratio above (with apple juice instead of water) gives you a starting gravity of approx. 1.120. This is a potential ABV of about 15.5%, depending on fermentation conditions.

A final warning, the stuff takes about 3 months to finish fermenting, and is VERY tart for the first 6 months or so after that. You should plan to drink it about 12 months after you start the primary fermentation. It also never completely clears.

Ultimately I think this is something I’m going to have to try.

While I was searching, I came across the Wikipedia list of alcoholic beverages which has a number of other interesting ones. For example:

  • Kilju, a Finnish “sugar wine” made from straight sugar (plus water and yeast of course)
  • Kumis (and also kefir), fermented mare’s milk (I’ve heard of this before)
  • Palm wine, made from the sap of various palm trees
  • Tonto, a Ugandan beverage made from bananas

What about maple syrup? Another quick search seems to reveal it to be called “acer wine” when fermented.

There’s a lot of homebrewing experiments to be gleaned from the links I’ve posted above.


  1. Well, you found *an* answer on Yahoo, but it may or may not be correct. Most sources indicate “rumbullion” was probably a designation for rum itself. In distillation, the fermented precursor to rum is generally just called the “wash”. (But it’s funny you posted this when you did, as I have been having similar notions and just today did a search for the topic and hit this.)

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