Crowd outside the wine shop at Dahisar
MUMBAI: For some, the long queues outside liquor shops can wait as they have stocked up on home-brews they have been discreetly making with simple ingredients like grapes, bananas, sugar and yeast for most part of the lockdown.
When the lockdown came into force in March and liquor shops downed their shutters, those looking for their daily tipple turned to bootleggers. A few also started looking online to brew their own beer or wine at home though it’s illegal, irrespective of whether made in small quantities or for personal consumption.
“All that was needed was lots of grapes, sugar, yeast and four days of patience,” said Mohan Singh, a Kandivli resident who started making wine at home when it got difficult to source whiskey during the lockdown. “A friend who makes wine at home gave me instructions. I realised it was simple, not to mention the aroma that wafted through the house.”
Making beer or wine at home is also easier than stronger spirits. That is one of the reason why serious drinkers who could only be seen downing whiskeys in restaurants are opting to make wine or beer at home. “Whiskey has a higher alcohol content and is difficult to make at home, while potatoes, bananas or sweet potatoes can be used for making beer, wine or vodka. Weather also plays a crucial role—it should be neither too hot nor too cold,” said lensman Somen C.
Homebrewing is also proving to be economical. A 750ml bottle of whisky costing Rs 1,200 went for as high as Rs 6,500 during the lockdown. But making six litres of wine requires just 2kg of grapes costing around Rs 50 per kg, sugar and yeast. Grapes have been easy to source as stocks regularly arrive from Nashik. It’s no wonder that yeast, one of the key ingredients for making liquor at home, has been flying off shop shelves.
Homebrewers also have WhatsApp groups where they exchange notes. “There’s a secret pact where we don’t exchange identities because nobody wants legal trouble,” said Somen.
And there are other benefits too. “The best part about homemade wine is that it is not looked down upon by other members of the family. It can be had at leisure,” said Vasai resident Mukul Shriram, who has made wine twice in the past two weeks. “Earlier, I would sneak out to buy liquor and there was always a fear of getting caught. I prefer making wine at home now.”
Some of the tipplers have also been settling for toddy made from the fermentation of flower sap from a coconut palm. Sold for Rs 60/ litre before the lockdown, it now costs around Rs 100.
(Some names have been changed)