A Case for Homemade Alcohol in Kerala

I am pretty sure my dear readers are well aware of the political situation regarding availability of alcohol in Kerala, my home state. Considered one of the prominent states in India with regards to consumption of alcohol, Keralites have been criticized even by the former President of India who said that Kerala is submerged in liquor. But I am tempted to ask – are things so bad in Kerala?

Some Statistics

According to the World Health Organization census of 2010, India is not even on the top 100 highest drinking nations. If I counted the list right, India ranks 118th which is in no way a bad thing especially by the fact that India is the second most populous country in the world. Now what is the status of Kerala? According to the National Sample Survey Office, Kerala ranks 18th in the consumption of alcohol and other habit forming substances. A state ranked 18th in a country that is ranked 118th globally statistically adds up to nothing in the grand scheme of things. I think more reforms should happen in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh than here.

The Sad State of Affairs

From the lessons we learned from statistics, it is clear that most of the issues that the media and the government is painting for us follows the Malayalam phrase – ഊതി പെരുപ്പിക്കൽ (Oothi Perupikkal) which means “blowing out of proportion”. For little or no reason this subject is brought up in the news to create some kind of a sensationalism to push forward an agenda. And the last time I checked, it has not done anyone any good. I will give a few examples:

  • The Dry Day Nonsense – “Dry Day” is a day that is observed with total abstinence from liquor. Theoretically it should mean no one consumes liquor on that particular day. But is it working? For the past few years Kerala has been observing “Dry Day” on the 1st of every month. That’s great but one should note that the clever people here buy and stock their required alcohol on the previous day itself. Recently a new “Dry Day” has been imposed on Sundays. Has that changed anything? Absolutely not. People are buying and stocking on Saturdays. So what is this game that the government is playing? Creating an impression that it is doing something and in effect doing nothing!
  • Capitalizing on a Non-Issue – Till date I haven’t understood what the anti-alcohol fellows really want. Last day I heard in the news that tourists are coming to Kerala not for drinking but for sight seeing. That may be true, but how many tourist spots are there across the world where alcohol is banned? Not many I guess. I will let the readers Google that for me. Banning liquor altogether or restricting it in unrealistic ways is going to adversely affect the tourism in Kerala which is an excellent source of revenue for the state. The curious aspect of this problem is that a total ban is not going to be implemented in many five star hotels. So what is going on here? Banning the local bars and liquor shops but letting the big fishes run does not seem fair and proper. It looks more like a sinister agenda which the government is liable to explain.
  • Accidents and Crimes – Most people site accidents and rising crime levels on alcohol consumption. I am not sure whether that correlation is correct. Crimes take place due to several factors most of which are poverty, competition, disputes, intolerance, ignorance and plain hatred. Alcohol may aggravate these situations and tendencies but that is not the only factor. A violent and evil person will commit a crime even if he/she is not intoxicated. And is alcohol the only intoxicant? These days even young students in schools are coming up with increasingly fancy methods to intoxicate themselves (including smelling the paper correction liquid) thereby coming under the influence of anti-social elements. Next is the possibility of accidents. For that all I can say is that even sober people cannot drive properly in the roads of Kerala let alone an intoxicated one. I think if the government moves forward with reforms in constructing better roads than wasting time on non-issues, we will have lesser road accidents, drunken or otherwise.

Considering the sad state of affairs, what can be done so that both people and the government are happy?

An Elegant Solution

This is where the requirement of brewing and distilling at home becomes important. There are several countries where brewing and distilling at home is permitted and I think the people of Kerala should adopt that practice and the government should allow the same by making it legal. Of course it should be restricted to only personal use as it is done in the countries where it is legal. It is not only an elegant solution but I think it is the only solution in our current circumstances. The following are some of the advantages of brewing liquor at home:

  • Regulated Drinking – A proper liquor requires time and effort from inception to consumption. It can span from a few days to several years depending on the type of liquor being produced. With all the efforts involved in producing good quality liquor from brewing to distilling to aging in wooden barrels, the producers won’t feel like doing binge drinking which is touted up as a major problem in the state. In fact the person will start respecting his health more and will drink only within the healthy limits as is done in most countries known for drinking.
  • Understanding Scientific Method – An educated person knows that knowledge of chemistry can improve the quality of medicines, food and of course liquor. Creating a better brew will push the person to learn more about the chemistry behind the processes involved thereby giving him a deeper understanding and insights into science. From setting up the apparatus to monitoring progress to making notes about changes and patterns are all part of scientific method and liquor brewing is a fantastic hobby to inspire scientific thinking.
  • Quality at Low Cost – Taxation on liquor is seriously a big problem. And is the liquor sold in Kerala worth the money spent? Certainly not! The “Indian Made Foreign Liquor” is one of the most idiotic liquids I have ever consumed. It tastes bad to say the least and has all sorts of additives that creates the feeling “Why on Earth did I even drink it?” So why bother spending all that money on something which is nothing more than flavor mixed spirit? Buying an imported liquor is not possible for many people. But if they can follow the exact procedure in producing imported liquor at the comfort of their homes, they can have the quality that they desire at a much lower cost. Further, the creative hobby of homebrewing and distilling also lets people customize the process to produce the flavor and feel that they like the most.
  • Solving a Paradox – Wine which contains alcohol anywhere from 8% to 20% is allowed to be made at home. Beer which has only 5% to 6% alcohol is not allowed. That makes no sense. Why can’t I make beer at home when I can make wine?

If government wants to forfeit their revenue made from liquor that is fine with me. But please let people make their own stuff for their own personal use. Even if the government implements a total ban, what is the guarantee that there won’t be an illegal inflow of liquor from outside?

A Caveat

I believe my point has been made clear. Some information I have given in this article are referenced whereas others are my own assumptions and inferences and should be taken as such. But the readers should not misunderstand me. I neither endorse alcoholism nor intend to promote drinking habits among any person from any place in any form. Further, this article should not be taken as a motivation to produce alcohol without permission. Drinking like any other habits should be restricted to people who have attained the age to make their own choices and decisions. However, I couldn’t help but point out the seemingly nonsensical ways by which the current government is creating an issue just to show that they are doing something.

References

  • Nisanth Premchand

    Dry day was started to make sure that the entire salary of workers(manual laborers) was not spent in buying/consuming alcohol on the day of receiving their monthly wages….It is during the 1st day of the month that people were paid their wages..it is also the day when people settle their grocery bills at the local shop.(palacharaku kada)..So it wasn’t non sense..it kind of served its purpose.

    • No it did not serve its purpose. Manual laborers still buy and consume alcohol. If not with their salaries, with borrowed money. If the salary goes into settling palacharakku kada, the guy will go and borrow money from his acquaintances. A habitual drinker simply wants to drink. He doesn’t care where the money comes from. That brings us back to the very premise of the article. Why bother spending so much money on really crappy alcohol when good quality stuff can be made at home provided the government permits it?

      • Nisanth Premchand

        Before we debate whether dry day on 1st of every month served it’s purpose…let me ask you this…what do you think was the purpose of having a dry day on the 1st on month?

        • I do understand the reasons behind having the dry day on the 1st of every month. There is no need to debate on that. However, you do realize that Kerala is not the only place on this planet where manual laborers are paid their monthly wages on the 1st day of the month, right? Further, Kerala is not the only place on this planet where manual laborers drink alcohol. So that pretty much makes the dry day a nonsensical concept. What’s the use of having a “dry” day when all the other days are “wet”?

          • Nisanth Premchand

            The purpose is not to let people BUY alcohol on the same day of getting the salary. So that the money reaches home. You do not seem to understand the difference this one law has brought about in the lives of several families who had their bread winners going to arrack and toddy shops instead of coming home with salary. It wasn’t a non sense law and had a great impact on the lives of many.
            On another note…one can brew anything home for personal purposes.. Beer,wine or any other liquor as long as it is not sold or made profit out of by other means. There’s absolutely no law currently preventing anyone to brew one’s own liquor.

          • There is no law currently that legalizes home brewing. It’s not documented anywhere that it is okay to home brew. Making wine or beer is one thing. Making other types of liquor is another. Next November when you prepare your batch of wine for Christmas, try distilling your wine into brandy and see what happens for yourself. The smell of distilled alcohol will cause your neighbors to report that you are doing “കള്ള വാറ്റ്”. And you know what happens next. By the way, regarding the difference the dry day law has made to the lives of people, are you suggesting that the workers in Kerala have quit drinking after this law? That doesn’t explain the long queues in front of beverages outlets. Hold that thought for a while.

          • Nisanth Premchand

            It is perfectly legal to brew your own liquor. As long as you don’t sell it,you’re not breaking any laws. Coz there are no laws preventing you from doing it. As long as there’s no law against it..You’re not breaking any law.There’s the social stigma attached with that and the complex process involved which must be why many people don’t practice it. Regarding the dryday on 1st..
            Nobody has quit alcohol coz of one dry day. It only has enabled the salary to reach home to family. This alone was the purpose of it.The purpose was not to make people quit alcohol. This one dry day has made a difference to those families.

          • The complex process needs to be studied and implemented. Most home brewers in the west are not people with big university degrees. They are common people who are ready to experiment. We need brewing supply stores like in those countries. Currently in India we have very few online stores such as Brewof, DIYBrew and DVKSP from where we can get the raw materials such as malted barley, hops, dextrose and Irish Moss. However, not so much with the equipment such as glass carboys, brewing kettles, auto-siphon, racking canes, kegerators etc. etc. Even finding substitutes is difficult. I did manage to make a few batches of beer using rudimentary equipment in my kitchen. But to do it properly requires proper stuff and I think the government should open shops that sell these stuff. What do you think?

          • Nisanth Premchand

            I do enjoy beer and whiskey but I don’t think the government would or should do anything that would promote alcohol consumption.Tobacco consumption and cigarette smoking has definitely gone down in Kerala. I think the main reasons for that was the awareness campaigns, ban on smoking in public etc. Smoking ended up being something that was being frowned upon in our society. Drinking.. Well not as much. It’s a status symbol when one says he drinks only single malt, just like the 90s when cigarette was the status symbol. That brings us to the bigger question. Should the government do anything at all to bring the alcohol consumption down? Adults who drink do it knowing all possible consequences of it. Shouldn’t the govt just create the awareness and let the citizens decide for themselves what they should or shouldn’t be doing?

          • It’s not about promoting alcohol consumption. Two years ago I happened to visit a developed country. And I was amazed by the way alcohol is handled there. Beer was available in literally every restaurant. Their government was not “promoting” consumption. Instead people drank responsibly. The reason? The laws are very strict. That’s the whole point. In most countries where alcohol is available in plenty, drunken driving is still a crime. Therefore people drink responsibly. As you rightly said, awareness campaigns should be there regarding the effects of alcohol. But at the same time good quality liquor should be available as well just like in foreign countries.