This post originally appeared on VICE Australia
Australia is a place where refusing to have a drink with someone can be as insulting as swearing at them. For better or worse, it's part of our culture: Goon of Fortune is a rite of passage, and it feels like one of best things a politician can do for their approval ratings is down a pint on camera. Recently, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) director Professor Michael Farrell told the ABC "more than a third of the population drink in a manner hazardous to health."
So what happens to Aussie communities when alcohol is banned? How do people cope when they're denied a drink? I heard through the grapevine that Chris, an inmate in one of Victoria's most notorious prisons, became an alcoholic behind bars. He then began distilling his own brand of boob-head brew.
Now a free man, I traveled to his home in St. Albans for a lesson in "pruno," AKA "hooch," AKA "boob-brew."
VICE: Give me the low down on how you ended up inside.
Chris: I went inside for summary offenses, bro. I didn't commit any serious crimes, but I got stung with 18 months because I kept failing my CCO (community correction order). While I was inside my dad died because he had a fucked liver. They wouldn't let me go to the funeral.
I'm so sorry to hear that. Was he a drinker?
Ha! Yeah he loved a drink. It really fucked me up, and I know it sounds messed up but I used to love having a drink with him. I was in a minimum-security open camp prison at the time [he passed away] and managed to get his favorite bottle of scotch smuggled in.
I drank it to piss away my shitty feelings and it kinda reminded me of him. It got me by. Eventually, I got carried away and the prison officers caught wind of what I was doing and transferred me to Port Phillip.
Maximum security prisons would make the smuggling a lot more difficult.
Yeah, it's easier to improvise and make your own. I was cell-mates with a biker from Geelong who'd done a bit of nick. More than ten years. He showed me the ropes and I was brewing my own hooch within a week.
What's it made from?
Basically, you need to stock up on your fruits; oranges and apples are usually the go.
What's the process?
You get a bag, sometimes you can line your pillow with it or find a stash spot for it. You cut up the apples, oranges, and any other fruit you can muster up. Add loads of sugar, pour in your water. And if you're lucky and have access, add a cup of vegemite, the yeast in it helps get the batch cooking faster.
The tricky part is finding a warm enough place to hang the bag. It's got to be tied with enough of an opening to let it air out as the fruit rots and the hooch brews. You're lucky, the one I've made for you today has rotten strawberries and grapes in it too.
Oh it fucking reeks. I've seen blokes throw up as soon as they see it, let alone smell or drink the shit. It's pretty funny though, everyone is disgusted at first sight, but every cunt drinks it anyway. Even the prison officers gag when they confiscate it, ha! One of them said we put him off drinking for months.
Feels like too much effort for me.
Mate, we were drinking a lot. Blokes really needed the stuff after a while. Whenever I had a few days off I couldn't sleep, I was always nervous and couldn't control my shakes. I grew up in the outer suburbs and never really smashed drugs like some of the other inmates but I was just as bad on the piss.
I never encouraged others to do it, it just helped me with whatever bullshit I was going through at the time. I would lie to myself a lot. One minute I thought it reminded me of my old man and the next I was using it as an escape. But I'm getting there now, been at AA over a year now.
So you wont be necking any of this fine concoction you've prepared for me?
Fuck no! I'm definitely done with that shit!
I'll have mine on ice with a slice of lime, cheers bud.
You're a psychopath.
It didn't taste good. I had hoped I'd end up feeling like a prohibition-era mobster, but I was mistaken. It was like swallowing warm oysters that tasted like sour vomit, after you've drunk-devoured a train station Chiko roll. After hours of nauseous gagging, the thick smell was still choking me. I looked and felt like a Bukowski come-down.