back to article LOHAN chap brews up 18% ABV 'V2' rocket fuel

It hasn't escaped some readers' attention that our Vulture 2 spaceplane's moniker might handily be abbreviated to "V2", which got Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team member Paul "Lord Shax" Shackleton thinking about rocket fuel, and indeed fuel for the human elements of our audacious ballocket mission. Hitler's …


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  1. PyLETS

    Never seen that airlock before

    Searching for 'shax airlock' found nothing relevant. Also, if the initial ferment is fast, as suggested by these ingredients and instructions, there seems to be a risk of the airlock blocking with foam and a very messy bottle bomb if there's no other way for the C02 to escape.

    I'd always suggest leaving 20% headroom for foam, and also for the first week no bubbler is required, just put some clean tissue over the top and a rubber band - less risky and gives the yeast a bit of oxygen to feed on until it gets started when the C02 blowing out will make the ferment anaerobic.

    If you haven't got a proper airlock I'd suggest using a food grade plastic bag tied over the top with rubber bands during the second week. Also as there is no fruit pulp in the recipe to be liquified in the ferment, I can't really see what the pectolase is for - seems a bit pointless to me.

    1. Jim 48
      Thumb Up

      Re: Never seen that airlock before

      Pretty much what I came here to say.

      Also, in my experience, mead is a brew that benefits from time, unless you are just going for alcohol for alcohols sake which seems to be the case here.

    2. Chris 244

      Re: Never seen that airlock before

      Wrong search phrase. If you check the article you will realize the correct search is for "SHAX BUBBLER" not "shax airlock".

      Which, uhmm, returns your comment above as the first result and also a query as to whether you meant to search for "SHARK BUBBLES" instead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never seen that airlock before

        " If you check the article you will realize the correct search is for "SHAX BUBBLER" not "shax airlock"."

        You'll also read that it's a homebrew airlock. Being that Lord Shax is the originator of the recipe, it seems pretty obvious we're talking about a homemade airlock, and no amount of googling is going to help you.

        On the subject of airlocks blocking, I've yet to see this, despite many years of messy "froth overs". I have since realised that froth overs are invariably caused by an excess of yeast, and simply using qood hygiene and a quarter of the recommended amount of yeast give you a slower start and the same outcome, but without the excess foam and mess in the first forty eight hours.

      2. Peter Simpson 1

        Re: Never seen that airlock before

        Which, uhmm, returns your comment above as the first result and also a query as to whether you meant to search for "SHARK BUBBLES" instead.

        I was unaware of sharks' affinity for burritos. Perhaps there are other causes for shark bubbles?

    3. Shax

      Re: Never seen that airlock before

      The airlock is lashed up from stuff I had in the bits box.. Needs no looking after during the long ferments, this one has been fizzing merrily for almost 3 weeks..

      Re the foaming over.. Never had it happen.. But if it does, the hey ho, I'll clean up the mess!

      The pectolase is a habit from making melomel, but it actually helps with the clearing.. Dunno why, but it does!

  2. Fibbles
    Thumb Up

    When can we place our orders?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as I know, in the UK it's illegal to make booze at home with an alcohol level above 14% --- don't know if there are such limits in España.

    1. Jim 48

      I think that's bollocks, I don't believe there is a legal limit on the alcohol level but it is illegal to produce alcohol by distillation.

      1. Ed 13 Silver badge

        No Duty on Brewing

        As Jim 48 said, there's no restriction on home brewing for personal consumption, which is in part the cause of these high alcohol yeasts that have been developed.

        You do need a licence to run a still, which is in part a safety precaution as there is a significant risk of you taking the wrong fraction out of the process and giving yourself and your friends methanol poisoning.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No Duty on Brewing

          Sounds a lot like the general rules in America (it varies from state to state). Homebrews are generally accepted as long as they're not sold commercially. Distillation requires a license. As I recall, controlling the toxic "foreshot" is one thing, I think another reason has to do with fire codes (since you're using heat to distill and the final result can potentially be flammable).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No Duty on Brewing

            However, there are quite a few who are [illegally] experimenting with home of my cow-orkers among them.

            It's fun, living on the edge...especially for engineers.

            // believe the prohibition has less to do with safety and more to do with control of a desireable commodity and, of course, tax revenue

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: No Duty on Brewing

              / believe the prohibition has less to do with safety and more to do with control of a desireable commodity and, of course, tax revenue

              If that were true, homebrews would be subject to similar restrictions (after all, most people drink beer, not booze, and drink more of it). Nah, safety's the bigger issue here. Not only do some unscrupulous shiners sell the foreshot, but there have been instances of accidents occurring at moonshine stills (either the shine catches fire or a bad setup causes the boiler to explode).

          2. Wzrd1

            Re: No Duty on Brewing

            "Sounds a lot like the general rules in America (it varies from state to state). "

            Save for distillation, which is under federal licensing for taxation purposes only.

            The US government doesn't give a tinkers damn if it's toxic, they care about the tax revenue.

            In this case, the US government can have it permitted *if* the alcohol is denatured with a toxic substance, then no tax is due.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: No Duty on Brewing

              Alcohol tax revenues go to the STATE, as the fed washed its hands of all alcohol-rated taxation with the 21st Amendment (the A in ATF deals mainly with transport, not with production—IOW bootleggers and smugglers). The reason alcohol laws are so uniform across states is because they tie federal road funds to certain alcohol-related prerequisites (like a minimum age of 21). Licensing is issued by the state (for example, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control board), and they DO have reason to regulate for safety reasons. Many moonshine stills are in the woods, so if the moonshine there catches fire, there's a potential forest fire to deal with. Also, victims of exploding stills may not be well to do, meaning the government has to help foot the cost of healthcare for the injured. So you see, the money and the safety angle are intertwined.

  4. PerlyKing Silver badge

    Remember chaps...

    No drinking within fifty feet of the aircraft, and no smoking less than eight hours before flying!

    Why can't I have the GO icon *and* the pint?!

  5. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    A lesson learned?

    When you shake the bottle, don't forget to put the bloody cap on or it'll get VERY VERY sticky, VERY VERY quickly.

    There speaks the voice of experience (and regret)?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: A lesson learned?

      Got to be first-hand experience, hasn't it?

    2. Shax

      Re: A lesson learned?

      Nope, just common sense... I've seen others shake a bottle with no cap.. Very messy, but bloody funny to watch!

  6. LesC

    Acid/UDMH? Pah. Chlorine Trifluoride and MMH. That'll incinerate any Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the glass and most of the bar.

    This is from Clark's excellent and entertaining book 'Ignition' available out there on the interwebs.

    The A4 (V2) also used LOX and hydrazine hydrate as did the Komet.


    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Yup, we've got a PDF copy of "Ignition" here at SPB HQ

    2. Christoph

      "Chlorine Trifluoride and MMH."

      Don't even think of working with Chlorine Trifluoride.

      Just don't, OK?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Unfortunately I have to (very) occasionally at work (semiconductor manufacturing - it's a chamber cleaning gas). The key trick is to keep it as a gas, as if it liquidies in the pipework whilst flowing then if the pipework changes direction, the liquid flow quite probably won't and will eat straight through. Might explain why it's banned in many of our customer sites, and indeed in several European countries iirc.

        It's a fun job being a semiconductor process engineer - every chemical you work with is either toxic, carcinogenic, flammable, asphyxiant, explosive and/or water.

    3. Hugh Pumphrey

      Read it. Now!

      "This is from Clark's excellent and entertaining book 'Ignition' available out there on the interwebs."

      I just went off to look for this, and I suggest you do the same. I'm up to page 10 and it is utterly gripping and pants-wettingly hilarious. Chuck out whatever dull novel you are reading --- this is guaranteed to be better.

      I'm sure that the BOFH has a copy that he has not lent to the PFY.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Read it. Now!

        There's a link to it in one of the articles above.

        Or for the more lazy, click here (pdf file).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    18% ABV

    or 36% proof.

    Hmm, as someone who has a great deal of experience in the production of the stronger alcoholic tipples, I doubt very much indeed its 18% abv without some sort of distillation/freezing being used...

    1. Rosie Davies

      Re: 18% ABV

      You can get to 18% fairly easily without any need for freezing of distillation - we regularly exceed this using just normal wine yeast. The limit is the concentration of its own excrement (or alcohol as us monkeys prefer to call it) the yeast strain can stand before it stops feeding. Some of the champagne yeasts will go well over 20%.


    2. EddieD

      Beyond 18% ABV...

      It is unlikely, but possible, with the right yeast, and the a lot of luck. When I did my degree in Brewing (at Heriot-Watt), we experimented, and occasionally got 17ish, 16% was not uncommon though, normally by adding extra sugar after the initial ferment, but then very sparingly, and with one eye glued to the hygrometer.

      There are yeasts that claim 24% ABV yields, but I'd recommend that the product made from these are used for engine cleaning or similar tasks, because subtle, they ain't.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Beyond 18% ABV...

        Try a Samuel Adams Utopias. They worked long and hard to come up with the right yeast strain. AFAIK, they made it to 50 proof (25% ABV): the strongest purely-fermented alcoholic beverage known. Some claim higher but those are either jacked or fortified.

    3. Shax

      Re: 18% ABV

      Some of the new "super yeasts" will go upto 27%,,, The one I am currently having much success with goes to 24% with ease..

  8. Caff


    You can substitute a whole piece of fruit ( 1 lemon ) for the nutrients and a pot of tea for the tannin.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done.

    I'll pass on the brew and stick to my Pint of OTT (Old Tongham Tasty) which I'll pick up on my way home from work tonight. don't want to go 'AoverT' now do we?

  10. Swarthy Silver badge

    I do believe I'll brew some up over this coming weekend. I shall share my results.

  11. lawndart


    Time for a proper scientific experiment; what happens to mead when exposed to the environment at 20Km+ altitude? Is it still nice when it comes back?

    A very small sample in a sealed polybag could go aloft with Lohan.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    The LOHAN team could be on to something here!

    If nothing else, it makes a useful de-greaser!

  13. C. P. Cosgrove

    Celebration purposes only !

    I might have a pop at this myself, but I would strongly suggest that the SPB flight crew keep this for post-flight celebrations. The mind boggles gently at the thought of trying to launch a balloon containing all these electronics and explosives after a couple of these - just to steady the nerves of course !

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Celebration purposes only !

      Agreed. A nice pre-flight cuppa is a better idea.

  14. Stevie


    I forget: What's the SAN loss for brewing Space Mead?

  15. Mike Banahan

    Just mead isn't much cop

    I salute your desire to make a strong brew but would prepare to be mildly disappointed. Plain mead by itself tastes like watered-down cheap sherry - that's why the good folk of the middle ages came up with all kinds of things to make it drinkable (well, it's going to be drinkable, perhaps 'enjoyable' would be closer to the mark). Metheglin - a spiced mead with stuff like cloves and cinnamon in it, think 'mulled mead' but without necessarly being drunk hot - now that's a different matter. Or mix it with fruit juices to make a mead-based alcopop, known in the jargon as a melomel. Perhaps that's the purpose of the orange honey?

    1. Shax

      Re: Just mead isn't much cop

      I beg to differ regarding the taste... Mine is bloody lovely... Typically meady, with a nice alco burn on the way down.. I've made metheglin and melomels before, also good flavour..

      This time, I just wanted a strong simple tasty mead.. And I think I've cracked it! :-)

  16. Grikath


    From the Bureau that brought us the Bacon Sarnie, and the Ultimate Cuppa this sort of disappoints.

    Mead is made from Honey, Water, and Yeast. Period. And yes.... pure-honey mead is notoriously difficult to ferment, which is why there are various strategies possible in the form of pre-ferments ( either beer- or wine-based).

    This concoction, while providing a beverage that will most assuredly fortify the festivities after a indubitably successful set of playmonaut heroïsm, relates to proper mead as Ankh-Morpork to...well... chocolate.

    While not an utter Blasphemy like some of the suggestions seen in the Cuppa and Sarnie battlefields, since it at least contains sort-of-actual-honey, I would suggest to strike the "mead" monniker off the label.

    1. PyLETS

      Re: Mead?

      Pure honey, water and yeast doesn't ferment well because it is low in the nutrients yeast needs to grow and has a neutral Ph. It's also low in tannin leading to a flabby drink tasting medicinal and lacking bite. Add some tea and fruit juice (e.g. lemon) and these deficits are remedied. The honey taste with the sugar replaced for alcohol also benefits from spices, I suggest gentle portions of cloves, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and ginger. That's a wine mead. An alternative is to make a beer mead - use hops and a small amount of malt to act as yeast nutrient without overwhelming the honey flavour.

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