I'm taking the last sip of home-brewed purple liquid. It's sweet yet balanced, fizzy yet quenching, smooth yet these words look a bit blurry. It tastes like a dangerously well-mixed drink. And just 48 short hours ago, it was Welch's.
Yes, good old Welch's Concord Grape Juice. And something about enjoying the beverage in such an adult manner makes my inner child weep.
I haven't touched the stuff since I was 10. Welch's, along with pretty much any processed fruit juice, is just too sugary for me to enjoy. Beyond a stiff margarita, I've found the world of frou frou mixed drinks have been lost on my palate. I don't judge those of you who enjoy all those syrupy, rum-infused rainbows garnished with alcohol, but...I take that back. I do judge you. I'm a booze, juice, food and general topics snob.
But I had to test the claims of Spike Your Juice, a yeast-based kit that ferments any 100% fruit juice, so long as it has 20G of sugar or more per serving, into an alcoholic brew with anywhere from 4-14% ABV. That puts the resulting potency somewhere between beer and wine. With a healthy 30G of sugar per serving, Welch's is a prime candidate for home fermentation.
You add a tiny yeast packet—about the same amount you might add to a bread-loaf of dough—to a 64 oz bottle of juice at room temperature. You ditch the normal cap for an included rubber stopper—one that allows gas to escape the bottle while otherwise keeping an airtight seal. And then you wait.
Apparently, this fast fermentation process is borrowed from the production of Federweißer, a German grape-based booze. Indeed, you can even make an authentic Federweißer with the kit.
Yeast munches on both the fructose and sucrose, then it expels alcohol along with CO2. My bottle of Welch's, as it transcended its forefathers through its alcoholic metamorphosis, fizzed after a bit of waiting. Then, after 24 hours, it bubbled like that slime from Ghostbusters 2.
The substance spilled out the airlock cap onto my counter, rebelling from its family-friendly roots with a new identity all its own.
What had I done?
"I swear you're making poison," my wife warns. I pretend I'm not afraid.
Another day later, and the juice had calmed down, still bubbling incessantly, but with the micro bubbles of champagne rather than the soapy bubbles of painful sequels.
Just an hour ago, I decided to pour a bit on the rocks since it fermented at room temperature. I tentatively sipped, expecting something that I could barely swallow. Instead, I was brought back to my childhood. Grape freezepops, grape sodas, grape jelly...but with a kick at the end. I wouldn't call it a burn, but a microbrew-like presence of alcohol behind the flavor.
After 2 1/2 glasses, it makes for a quick, harsh buzz—akin to the helmet of weight you get around your brow from vodka. There's no way this is 4% ABV—I'd guess it's closer to 8 or 10%.
I don't think I could drink the stuff every day. But I will say this: If Spike Your Juice were around during my childhood, I fear that Welch's concord grape could have had an entirely different connotation. Plus there's no way I'd had ever grown this tall.
Now whoever figures out how to spike peanut butter will be my personal savior.
Send an email to Mark Wilson, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Gizmodo 9/25/10