Yeast Shit


Call it what it is. Fermentation is basically what happens when certain yeast cultures do their thing. They eat, they breath, they shit. Yeast eats sugar. When it breathes, it exhales carbon dioxide (the stuff that makes bread rise and beer fizz). And when yeast defecates, it shits out alcohol.

Which, it turns out, humans actually like to drink. Kind of gross isn’t it?

And that brings me to Colorado spirits. Back in the day there were lots of small scale yeast farmers. Practically everyone did it. Picture the toothless guy making his hooch in Appalachia. Then it became the exclusive provence of industrial distillers: factory farms for yeast and yeast crap.

But now we see the resurgence of small-scale local artisanal distillers. And the San Juans have become a hotbed. Maybe it’s the remoteness or the mining past (when any three block town sported six saloons and as many cathouses). Or maybe just chalk it up to southern Colorado wackiness.

Throw it all together in a copper still, boil away the vapor, and what’s left? Jackalope gin out of Telluride. Montanya Platino rum (big gold and silver medalist) out of Silverton. Telluride vodka (rated 92 by Wine Enthusiast). And of course Stranahan’s whiskey (actually out of Denver, but they count for wackiness).

So do you really need to drink all that yeast shit? Not really, though it’s all exemplary for smoothness and taste. The really BIG thing is that those gazillion defecating yeast are leading the way in the relocalization of our economy.

And as big oil falls apart, those little yeast (or at least their agricultural counterparts) will become literal lifesavers. In ecosystems, heterogeneity and diversity equate to stability. As does small scale interdependence coupled with relative self-sufficiency. You make the whiskey. I’ll grow the corn. And if you don’t come through with the whiskey, I’m still good for the corn.

Furthermore, when I get my whiskey from you, 80 cents out of every dollar remain in the community and are shared among us. If I buy from Diageo (the world’s largest liquor company) god knows where that money goes. And on top of that, both my corn and your whiskey create social currency – you and I have a relationship, we’re working to support one another. Relationships are uber-currency. They’ll support us when both the dollar and the euro fall apart.

Which leads to a great irony. All those abandoned silver towns high in the San Juans that have struggled for five decades? They’ve had a head start in trying to figure it out. And woe to those large cities that are still on petroleum life support.

I’m sure there’s some mountain rat who’ll drink to that.

Written in Mancos

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