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A Toast to Dr. Welch

With my first red wine now bottled, I can turn my attention to my next wine making endeavor. I made a few mistakes with my red which I will do my best not to repeat. My main complaint about the first red is that it was lifeless and watery. I racked into my brewing carboy for secondary, and topped off with water to fill the remaining headspace. Then I recalled that the standard winemaking carboy is six gallons, where as my brewing carboy is six and a half. I watered the wine down too much. That also affects how well the wine clarifies. It’s not that the wine is bad, it’s just that it’s not good. Hopefully with a little bottle conditioning, it’ll improve a bit.

What I’m going to try next is a white wine, made from reconstituted Welch’s 100% Niagara Grape Frozen Concentrate. After reading the history of Thomas Bramwell Welch, I decided I had to try this. Welch was the first person to get the idea of applying Dr. Pasteur’s microbe killing process to grape juice. There were many things to admire about Dr. Welch, being an abolitionist and active on the Underground Railroad. But he was also a world class busybody prohibitionist, and it is that particular history that has made me decide to turn some of Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine into a real McCoy. It would probably kill the old man to know the company that he founded, and bears his name, seems to be on relatively friendly terms with the home winemaking community, and willing to answer questions from home winemakers using the Welch’s product to make wine. But I suppose this day in age shouting, “Be gone sinner, and drinker of the demon spirits!” into the phone of people wanting to know the acid additions to their grape juice, or sulfite concentrations, wouldn’t go over too well among the juice buying public, never mind hobby winemakers.

What the body politic did to prohibitionists is a wonderful lesson for our cause. To the extent there even are prohibitionists these days, they are viewed as out of the mainstream and quacky. We almost have the opponents of gun rights there, provided we keep pushing. I’ll drink a toast to Dr. Welch, and his company, and hope in our current struggle, our opponents suffer the same political fate.

25 Responses to “A Toast to Dr. Welch”

  1. Richard says:

    Being an abolitionist and prohibitionist is not especially a quirk in historical terms. Those positions tended to be held by the same sorts of people. Suffrage for women was the third leg of this particular tripod of beliefs which were typically held by the religiously inclined. To update it like you did, today you find a great deal of overlap between anti-self defense, animal rights, and environmentalism. In both cases, there is no inherent connection between the issues in the tripod other than a certain world view.

    • Arnie says:

      Thank you, Richard! I was just going to post the same thing about the “tripod.”

    • That certain worldview was an outgrowth of the Second Great Awakening, the evangelical thrust along the frontier in the period 1800-1840. A great many important movements come out of this, besides the three items mentioned above. In addition, the increased emphasis on discouraging (both by social pressure and enforcement of existing laws) prostitution, extramarital sex, the notion of “separate spheres” distinguishing men’s work and women’s work, improving the conditions of poorhouses, separating the mentally ill from criminals in public institutions (they used to be thrown together in the same prisons), and the development of state mental hospitals.

      The temperance movement at its start was primarily about encouraging moderation in the use of alcohol: drink was okay (in fact, the only safe way for most Americans to drink water), but drunkenness was not. The difficulty is that there were (and are) people for whom there is no moderate use of alcohol: it seems to be a binary function: sober or rip-roaring, murdering, raping, child abusing drunk. The temperance movement eventually turned into a prohibition movement because of this.

  2. Wraith says:

    Did none of these people notice that our Lord turned water into wine, not the other way around?

    • The temperance movement was originally about moderation in drinking alcohol, and turns into a prohibition movement later, as it becomes apparent that this isn’t very easy for some people to do. Of course, even from the start there are temperance advocates who see that whiskey does not suit itself to moderation. See this amusing account of the intersection of rifles, whiskey, and shooting competition from Baynard Rush Hall’s The New Purchase: Or, Seven and a Half Years in the Far West.

      • Countertop says:

        I have no problem moderating whiskey consumption, and my behavior while drinking it. Of course, I’m not inclined to be violent to begin with.

        • Alcohol (like most other intoxicants) is an inhibition-reducer. Some people get sexually casual when drunk; some are ready to do karoke, after a few drinks; some people turn into violent monsters when drunk. I suspect most people who have been drunk once have a pretty good idea what inhibition will disappear.

  3. PT says:

    hmmm..using grape juice

    that sounds easier than making beer from raw ingredients.

    • Roberta X says:

      My Mom made “kitchen counter” wine for years, using a gallon glass(!) jug, a balloon and grape juice. Plus a little baker’s yeast. It was quite drinkable. The balloon inflates when the yeast starts working and deflates when it’s done.

      One of her grandfathers made beer, wine, brandy and (for the kids) root beer in his basement all through Prohibition. Perfectly legal, as long as he didn’t sell it. Always had the impression that he did so, in part, because people wanted to make it illegal. He was reportedly “not much of a drinker.”

  4. NUGUN says:

    How many similarities to the prohibition age do we have with our. Jeremy prohibition on drugs?

    Interesting to note that era is famed for its gangs and crimes bosses, fueled by moonshine. Today we have a similar problem. And few see the association.

    • I think almost everyone sees the association. The libertarian critique of drug prohibition has been widely published by all mainstream media for at least twenty years now. The reason that Americans have not generally accepted this as public policy is not that they have not heard it; it is that they are concerned about the consequences of making intoxicants more widely available. Sure, we’ll have less prohibition-related crime, but at the cost of more disinhibition-related crime.

      Part of why I went from voting for medical marijuana in California to no longer supporting this is that I could see the consequences where I lived. They were not pretty. I am still not comfortable with a strategy that primarily relies on prohibition, but I am not particularly interested in living in a society where meth is advertised for sale.

      • A Critic says:

        I am still not comfortable with a strategy that primarily relies on prohibition, but I am not particularly interested in living in a society where meth is advertised for sale.

        Really? I’m pretty sure my grandmother used to use meth. You are really afraid of things like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Obetrol-resized.jpg?

        Now, I didn’t know my grandmother back in the day when she was taking meth that she must have seen ads for…but my father did, and he doesn’t recall any problems.

        • Even today, there are prescriptions available for these drugs, and they are used by military pilots on long missions. But making them available without restrictions or limitations (the libertarian goal) is going to give us the problems we have today, probably multiplied several times. You will notice that the end of Prohibition did not restore alcohol to its pre-Prohibition status: there are still lots of restrictions (no sales to those under 21, significant taxation, some counties are still dry, state ownership of liquor stores in many states).

          • A Critic says:

            Even today, there are prescriptions available for these drugs, and they are used by military pilots on long missions. But making them available without restrictions or limitations (the libertarian goal) is going to give us the problems we have today, probably multiplied several times. You will notice that the end of Prohibition did not restore alcohol to its pre-Prohibition status: there are still lots of restrictions (no sales to those under 21, significant taxation, some counties are still dry, state ownership of liquor stores in many states).

            Newsflash: all hard drugs are currently readily available to anyone with cash. The only restriction is that the cost is higher and the danger greater than it would otherwise be.

            That makes as much as sense as banning those dangerous assault weapons.

            And yes, there are many restrictions on alcohol, such as dry counties, which as I understand it have the most booze and the highest rates of drinking problems.

            Prohibition causes problems and doesn’t solve any problem. Your fear of a chemical is no reason to restrict the liberty of other human beings and to place them in a greater danger. It’s okay to be afraid – it’s not okay to lash out against others because you can’t control your fear.

  5. Countertop says:

    I brewed beer (pretty damn good beer) for years. Near the end of law school, the brewery I worked at was closing its original location and moving to a new brewery. A few of us there looked at converting it to a micro-distillery but the regulatory hurdles (not to mention $$$ for a bonded warehouse) was way too high.

    15 years later, of course, there’s a market for micro distilled alcohol and we could have pulled it off.

    In any case, the desire to make whiskey (and more recently Rye) has not gone away and I keep looking for ways to start distilling. Never had much interest in wine.

  6. Sean says:

    I’ve not made grape wine, but a few batches of apple cider, and of course lots of beer.

    With apple and pear ciders, I was always told to ensure organic, unprocessed juice, else you risk fermentation issues. Assuming you are starting with juice and not whole fruit with skins, you are also pitching yeast of some sort.

  7. Sebastian says:

    At some point you have to think about what length you will go to in order to make your fellow citizen follow the straight and narrow path. I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that you cannot eliminate all evil through force of law, and that you can probably create more problems through trying than by not.

    Society has to have some standards, and I think frowning on drunkenness that disrupts commitments to family, to one’s god, or distracts from fruitful endeavors is a worthwhile stigma. But that is a great difference from believing in such standards that advocate that no one may have it, under penalty of law, because some might abuse it. It’s the same mentality backing gun control.

    • Relatively gun owners want laissez-faire on guns: no restrictions on minors carrying guns; no restrictions on convicted violent criminals having guns; no restrictions on having guns while locked up in jail. Similarly with respect to the mentally ill. There are obviously reasonable restrictions and unreasonable restrictions. We have accepted this with respect to alcohol as well: reasonable restrictions and unreasonable ones, although we might argue about which ones constitute unreasonable.

      Laissez-faire about intoxicants (including alcohol) is something that few Americans support, for the reasons that I have articulated. There might be a case for less restrictions on marijuana (although living in California persuaded me against this), but when you make the libertarian argument for abolishing all drug laws, you lose 90% of the population.

  8. Alpheus says:

    As a Latter-day Saint, I have no interest in drinking wine, beer, or whiskey…but I’m oddly attracted to the idea of making these things. I don’t know fully why, though, but I suspect that it has something to do with the possibility to learn something new, and to become familiar with what looks like a fascinating process.

    And I agree with Sebastian: there’s only so much you ought to do to make your fellow citizen follow the straight and narrow path, and that laws shouldn’t be there to make people moral.

    Come to think of it, though, I seem to recall learning in my American History class that the Prohibition would have been more successful, if wine and beer had been kept legal, and only hard liquor like whiskey and brandy had been made illegal–indeed, when Congress had been granted the power to ban alcohol, this is what prohibitionists seemed to expect to happen. Instead, they passed a ban that prevented the sale of even these things, and Prohibition went downhill from there.

    I recall a book I read that explained that, when a drug is banned, it’s usually produced in concentrated forms, because it’s easier to smuggle, and the greater high justifies the greater risk. Hence, we get things like crystal meth and crack cocaine, and in the time of the Prohibition, a rise in whiskey production.

    • Sebastian says:

      Probably a good survivalist skill. You can always trade hooch.

    • A Critic says:

      Hence, we get things like crystal meth and crack cocaine, and in the time of the Prohibition, a rise in whiskey production.

      Bingo! A few decades ago someone new to meth might take a 5 milligram pill. Today there are many credible reports online of new users injecting 500 milligrams or other huge quantities.

      Me, I’d like to use coca tea as an alternative to my caffeine addiction…but tea is a felony.

    • You are correct: some historians argue that prohibiting distilled alcohol would have achieved many of the desired social benefits. As long as beer and wine were available, yes, there would be problems, but perhaps not as severe. There is some reason to think that the invention of gin in 18th century Britain played a major part in accelerating a serious alcoholism problem, because it was cheap and concentrated.

      • Sebastian says:

        That’s kind of funny. I would think that Gin would turn people away from alcohol. If I had been in the 18th century, and someone came by and said “Have a swig of this. It’s a new drink called gin.” I would have said “No thanks, I’ll stick to beer.”

        I will very rarely have a martini, but usually prefer vodka martinis. In general, I find gin to be harsh and unpalatable.

  9. Kristopher says:

    You may have problems getting that started. The juice has potassium metabisulfite in it to prevent fermentation.

    Brewers use the chemical to halt fermentation.

    Avoid juice with either potassium metabisulfite or polysorbate 80 in it.

    You may need to use frozen juice and reconstitute, or shop carefully for organic or cheap juice that has no such preservatives in it.

    • Sebastian says:

      Potassium metabisulfite has two purposes in wine. One is to prevent oxidation and maintain color. The other is to inhibit the growth of bacteria and wild yeasts. The amount of sulfites in Welch’s is enough to prevent oxidation and maintain color. It’s not enough to prevent fermentation. Most wine yeast strains are pretty tolerant of sulfites, so from what I’ve been told, it should start fine.

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