– Bathtub Beer –

During the time of Prohibition from 1920 until 1933, alcohol made for drinking purposes was banned from use in the United States. Americans were not to be denied there libations simply because the law said so. Gangsters imported it through any means possible and at a high cost in lives.

Bathtub Gin was manufactured in apartments and homes throughout cities and towns nation wide. Underground distilleries and breweries were popping up all over. No, a nation of drinkers are a nation of drinkers forever. Where there is a will there will always be a way. That good ole American can do spirit lives on.

My dad and his friend, Jim Stephenson, were no different than anyone else. They enjoyed a cold beer now and again and, during the dry spell of the late twenties, it wasn’t necessarily hard to get but it was a bit pricey for the boys back then. You see, they only earned roughly 25 to 30 cents an hour working for Dow Chemical in Denver, Colorado. And that was considered pretty good wages for that time period.

Out of that $12.00 to $14.40 for a six day work week, had to come rent, food, clothing and entertainment. Most of us today wouldn’t even get out of bed for that piddly amount. My dad and Jim did it every day and were glad they had the opportunity to do so. Jobs of any kind were scarce back then.

The boys liked to have a few beers, like I said, and they were trying to figure out just how they could cut down on their entertainment costs. One of them came up with the bright idea of making their own beer. After all, how hard could it be? That would surely cut down on their drinking bill and they could make as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted. The plan had been hatched now, all they needed were the supplies.

Within the next few days they got themselves a recipe and bought all the ingredients. They bought the self-sealing bottles with the metal clip and cork that snaps down on the side of the bottle neck and a few cases to hold them. The brew was mixed in a washtub which they covered and let sit for a week or so. When the time was right, they siphoned the beer into the bottles and sealed them up to age a few days. The final instruction before bottling was to put two teaspoons of sugar in the bottom of each bottle before putting in the liquid.

Now dad and Jim looked at each other thinking, after all the sugar they put into the mix itself, why put in more now. They wanted regular beer not sweet beer so they omitted the two teaspoons of sugar and capped the bottles anyway.

Dad and Jim shared a single room with one bed, one dresser, a table with a  couple of chairs and that was about it. It was cheaper than if they got one room a piece besides, that’s the way you did it back then. A room wasn’t meant to hang out in, just for sleeping and getting ready for another days work.  In those days, they weren’t so hung up on the I gotta have my own space thing like we are today. Two grown men would share the same room, the same double bed and be glad they had their own side let alone the whole bed and think nothing of it at all.

The beds back then were crude to say the least. The headboards were thin metal rails and the springs were exposed and coiled and squeaky. The mattresses were thin, about 4 inches in all, and just barely protected you from the springs but after a hard days work, it felt pretty damn good.

Dad and Jim were proud not only that they had brewed their own beer but that they hadn’t drank it before they bottled and aged it. A feat in itself, I might add. After the bottling and boxing, they slid their soon to be refreshments under the coiled springs of the bed to age.

Now, either that night or the next, while dead asleep in the middle of the night, the bottles started to go off like shotgun blasts right under their mattress. The tops of the bottles were blowing of the bottle bodies and hitting the bed springs and the bottom of the thin mattress like rounds from a cannon.

Dad and Jim were scared out of their wits not knowing who was shooting at them and why. They both jumped out of bed and into the spreading, frothing mess coming from under the bed. The shotgun blasts continued until all the bottles had erupted and the floor was covered with their precious beer.

After they had gathered their senses about them they realized what had just happened. The next day they found out that the sugar added before bottling was meant to keep those eruptions from happening not to make the beer sweeter. Live and learn, right?

Dad and Jim gave up on trying to save money by brewing their own beer and went back to the old fashion way. Buying it from the bootlegger or some one who had. Sure, it was more expensive that way but it was definitely safer and a lot less messy. Besides, this way all they had to wait for was  payday.

See you next-time and have a nice day!


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