The Teenage Dilemma

Alcohol. Teenagers crave it, to be socially acceptable and generally fit in. The need to drink will arise in the average respectable East London teenager at about the age of 15/16. Of course, it comes earlier to those confined to tall concrete mass-houses otherwise known as tower blocks, of which there are plenty around here. Almost instantly though, the teenager will encounter a fundamental flaw to their plan, and that’s buying alcohol. The advent of ID checks in all supermarkets mean it’s practically impossible to buy alcohol in a supermarket, where it’s likely to be cheaper. So the choice is left between bringing your parents along to buy it (which is not always permitted), or go to a grim backstreet off-license where the man behind the counter doesn’t care and all of his stock likely came from the modified bathtub in the back room.

To most, those are the options until they turn 18. However, to those minors with a little bit of time on their hands (not an issue for a student in the summer holidays), anyone can buy alcohol from the leading brand supermarkets with no need for ID.

What’s the secret? Make up? Big Shoes? A fake beard?

Disguises aren’t necessary, although you’re welcome to dress up for the mission if it makes you feel more relaxed about it. You need not worry, no laws are broken in following this guide. The trick, simply, is don’t buy alcohol.

But surely that defeats the point?

Not quite. What I mean by ‘don’t buy alcohol’ is don’t buy anything from the beers, wines and spirits aisle(s). You won’t succeed, and attempting to buy it (so bringing it to the checkout) is a criminal offence. In much the same way as asking an unsuspecting adult to buy it for you. What’s perfectly legal, however, is buying something that can become alcoholic but isn’t at the point you buy it.

I don’t follow?

Perhaps a little bit of chemistry is important here, based around yeast. Yes, yeast. The stuff you make bread with, found in the bakery aisle. Not age restricted at all, but when kept in a warm place with sugar (another perfectly legal product to buy underage), it begins to produce alcohol and CO2. The secret, therefore, is home brewing.

That’s a little bit complicated, isn’t it? And surely the government have caught on to it?

Well, it’s not very complicated. Putting yeast and sugar in a bottle with ginger, lemon and honey will, after a few days (or longer if you want it more alcoholic) give you ginger beer, with an average ABV of between 4-9%. Potentially strong stuff, costing less than Tesco Value Lager and I guarantee will taste a million times better. And, as alcohol is only a potential by-product of yeast, they can’t restrict the sale of it, just like they can’t restrict the sale of potatoes, barley and grapes. Ginger beer isn’t the only thing you can make too, it works for lemonade, and pretty much any soft drink (although the taste will vary quite a bit from what you make and it’s sometimes not pleasant). A simple google search will provide you with hundreds of recipes.

All you need is those cheap 2L water bottles (about 15p each), ginger and lemons (about 40p combined), sugar (£1), honey (£1) and yeast (another £1) and you’re good to make about 6-8 litres of cheap, tasty alcohol. Nice.

If you’re wise to the wonders of chemistry and have a few days to wait it’s not at all hard to make your own alcohol regardless of your age, and anything you make yourself is bound to taste better. It’s almost a no-brainer, but obviously a little bit of thought and careful planning is required, as the CO2 build up if left unchecked can cause bottles to explode quite dramatically. Don’t let it put you off though, just open the cap every evening and you’ll soon have a smart solution to the teenage dilemma.


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