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Plenty of cheer as hundreds begin to 'grow their own beer'

Belfast Telegraph January 2 1959

Ale PlantA few hundred people in Northern Ireland are "growing their own beer" — reviving a hobby once very popular. It is the culture of ale plant.

The plant — if that is the word — is a spongy yeast substance combining a fungus and a bacterium. It feeds on sugar and water and in the fermenting process produces a mildly alcoholic and, some say, refreshing drink.

A letter from a Belfast Telegraph reader asking for details of how to grow the plant brought a surprising number of replies. Don't go looking for the ale plant in a seed shop -- the only way to get one is from someone who has his own. lie has plenty to spare.

So fast does the organism grow that a certain amount has to be thrown away each time the jar is replenished, and from that surplus plant another "brew" can be started. If it is left to "starve" the fungus dies.

I asked a woman who has kept her plant hale and hearty for some years for a sample recipe.

"Each one to his own taste, but I use a confectionery jar almost filled with water," she said. "Every week I strain off the ale, wash the plant and put it back in the jar, half-filled with cold water. The remaining half is heated and into it I dissolve one tablespoon of treacle and two to three tablespoons of sugar."

The cycle takes about a week to complete, though the ale can be drunk earlier or later, according to the strength desired. The longer it stands the more bitter and alcoholic it becomes.

"I experimented with bottling it, but it goes flat very quickly. It's best drunk straight from the jar," she said.

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