Regional Report: A day in the life of an akpeteshie distiller

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Tue, 11 May 2021 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Correspondence from Eastern Region:

It is Ghana’s most popular liquor. Some call it apio, others call it ogogoro, yet others call it keka bi kyere wase, meaning, speak your mind to your in-law.

Nationally, however, it is known as Akpeteshie, the national spirit of Ghana, produced by distilling palm wine.

GhanaWeb's Eastern Regional Correspondent, Michael Obeterye visited one of the local akpeteshie distilleries in the Eastern Regional town of Dawa Korlewa near Asesewa, manned by 41-year-old George Tettey Addo. His distillery is located in one of the several farmlands in the area.

Having taken over the job from his father, Mr. Addo has been in the business for the past twenty-five years.

To enable him fully undertake the difficult task of harvesting the palm wine, buying firewood, and the entire distillery process, George Addo told GhanaWeb that he employs a few hands in his business.

He buys the raw material which in this case is palm wine from various palm tree farmers in his locality after the trees have been felled and tapped.

Taking us through the distillation process, Mr. George Tettey Addo said Akpeteshie which is distilled from palm wine is first fermented in large barrels after harvesting the palm wine from felled palm trees.

After this first stage of fermentation, fires are built under the barrels to bring the liquid to a boil and pass the resulting vapor through a copper pipe within cooling barrels, where it condenses and drips into sieved jars.

The boiled juice then undergoes a distillation.

According to him, the Akpeteshie is poured into unlabeled used bottles which he then sells to his various customers in Accra, Kpong, Akosombo, and Atimpoku.

The potency of the liquor heavily affects the bodily senses, providing a feeling likened to that of a knockout punch. Drinkers can be seen acknowledging receipt by blowing out the air or pounding their chest.

Married with four children, the Akpeteshie distiller describing the job as beneficial to cater for his family however said returns may not be the best at all times.

“It is financially rewarding. If you do it well, you reap benefits. Sometimes, you reap good returns, other times too, you’ll record poor returns,” he said.

According to him, the benefits from the dry season are much better compared to the rainy season.

He said, “It is bad in the rainy season but it is good in the dry season. The ground is dry during the harmattan season so you harvest very good palm wine and the liquor distilled from it is also very strong but it isn’t as strong during the rainy season except you add sugar.”

He currently produces about five barrels of the stuff in a month but he believes he can produce about twenty if he gets the needed support.

Speaking about some challenges that confront him during his job, he said getting the firewood as well as enough financial prowess to buy enough felled palm trees are some difficulties being faced by his business.

“It [gathering the firewood] is a problem for me. Sometimes you don’t get the firewood. Other times too, you get only about fifty palm trees and this isn’t enough. You’ll get very little from it so you must have enough money to buy it in large quantities,” he said.

To solve the problem of fuel, George Addo advocates the use of gas in their distillation process as the heat from the fire is a big problem for them.

“The heat from the fire is the problem so I’ll encourage the use of gas, we suffer from the heat. If there was money, we’d use gas in the process.”

Asked if he would encourage his children to take up the distillery business in the future, Mr. Addo had this to say.

“I learnt this job from my father so it’s like a family business. It’s good for my apprentices to graduate and own their businesses,” he said.

Though he said distilling akpeteshie is a good thing, he nevertheless advised the youth against irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

“My advice is that distilling akpeteshie is good but too much drinking is bad, drink in moderation so it is good that we distill the liquor because God created it,” he said.

Although not professionally advertised, the drink is very popular. This is partially due to its price, which is lower than that of other professionally bottled or imported drinks. Its relative cheapness makes it a drink associated more with the poor.

Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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