Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's not Breaking Bad, it's Breaking Beer

How much does it cost to go cruising?  How can you afford to give up your jobs and retire early?  How much do you spend on a monthly basis?  Whether you are on land or at sea, finances, budgets, and money always seem to rear their ugly heads.  When I was younger, I used to say that I was “on the list” for a trust fund.  Eventually, I kept telling everyone but especially myself, my name would come to the top of the list, and whallah, my bank account would swell, and I would be much happier.  I’m still waiting…..

Through a set of interesting circumstances, we’ve been able to buy our boat, put enough money in the bank, and live off the interest that is generated monthly.  This is not to say that we have more money than we know what to do with.  I still hold tight to my wallet whenever we are in the grocery store, and unlike some other cruisers we know, going out to eat in a restaurant is something done infrequently.  The last time we were in a marina was years ago, (and perhaps the boat is suffering from the lack of fresh water) as we simply can’t afford the slip fees.  Our clothing choices are now reduced to “what is actually clean?” vs. “what is the most trendy?”  No holes or grease stains deem it still wearable.  Rather than buy fine wines, I have become SOMEWHAT content with the inevitable Cardbordeaux, a boxed wine from Chile.  As it’s “winery” is Clos, I affectionately say that it is “Clos to wine, but only just”.   Here on the mighty ship Sundancer, budgets still rule.  

Our eventual plans have us heading due west.  The south Pacific, with exotic sounding island names like Vanuatu and Niue, is the siren song by which most sailors are lured.  When I was in my early 20’s I dated a guy that was a shark researcher, and his tales of swimming in Melanesia, along with that shark tooth hanging from a cord around his neck, have fired my imagination through many long months and years of frozen toes and frostbit fingertips in ski resorts around the world.  But it takes planning to get there, and lots and lots of money. 
We need to save money where we can.

Which brings me to beer making.  Friends who have already made the “puddlejump” sent back tales of $3.50 beers, $12 bags of Doritos, and $5 oranges.  ?!?!  I can’t grow an orange on board, and I fear my attempts at recreating one of my favourite snacks would fall short, but beer…..we can do beer.  

We got introduced to the idea a few years ago while we were in La Paz, Mexico.  A cruising couple we met roasted their own coffee beans (in a popcorn popper, which they gifted to us) and brewed their own beer.  Their boat was smaller than ours, and this was in Mexico where cerveza, the national drink, is pretty affordable.  It got us to thinking…..well, it got Ron to thinking primarily about drinking it, and it got me thinking about those $3.50 beers in the Marquesas.   Fast forward 2 years.  We traded a bit of rum that had also been gifted to us (thanks Jane and Ean from More Joy Everywhere) for a couple of beer making kits (more thanks to Bill from Sunrise).  When I returned to Panama from San Diego, I brought back a few bags of malt extract, some dextrose, and a couple hundred bottle caps.   It looked like we were in business.  

Now we are still in Ecuador.  A 633 ml. bottle of cerveza is around a dollar.  It’s at a price that I don’t need to keep too close a watch on Ron’s consumption.  But we were now carrying around a couple (6) of cans that seemed to weigh several pounds each, and take up valuable stowage space.  We decided we’d better try our hand at making a batch, before we committed entirely.  

A week ago, we set it to brewing.  And yesterday, it got bottled up. 

A pictorial primer follows…..

He's soooo happy
This stuff is gooey enough to use for thruhulls
Adding the malt extract to the goo
bit of water......18 liters to be exact
the stuff that make it work....yeast!
a little shake....
and the magic happens.
attaching the airlock
6 days later, it's bottling day
Need to sterilize those bottles
Obviously out of his element, standing over the sink
I think he used every pot we have
Now for the fun
Let's see, what do I do next?
It's like science class
Only waaaaayyyyyy better
Getting to the end
Final step
First batch complete!
28 more week to carbonate up, and then....we drink!


  1. Great picture story. Tell us how it tastes.

  2. You're welcome! So I figure when we meet up next, you're gonna owe us a few bottles of that stuff.