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The Formula For Beer

I have my Tivo set to look for the keyword “beer” and recently it taped the 1933 comedy film What — No Beer?, which I hadn’t watched until now. The plot of the film is essentially about two people who think they can get rich by being the first to sell beer just as prohibition is ending, if they can just figure out how to make it. There’s a funny scene where the two stars — Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante — discuss how it’s brewed.

Elmer J. Butts (Buster Keaton): “How do you make beer?”

Jimmy Potts (Jimmy Durante): “Oh, I got the formula. An old German wash woman gave it to me. Take 5 gallons of water, 1 cup of malt extract, 3 spoonfuls of hop, 1 small cup of yeast. Mix in one large crock.”

Sounds pretty easy. I wonder why everybody doesn’t do it. It’s a goofy, if only occasionally funny, movie but worth it just to see the brewing scenes.

Here’s the plot summary from the iMDb:

Although he has never met her, Elmer Butts loves Hortense secretly and from afar. He dreams of making a million dollars so he can buy her a Rolls automobile and marry her. With prohibition apparently on the verge of ending, Elmer’s friend Jimmy Potts gets an idea to make them both rich by opening a brewery just before the legalization of alcoholic beverages. Their timing is off, and the police raid them, but their inept brewing has created a beer with no alcohol, so they are let off. But it has also resulted in a cheaply made beer, and bootlegger Spike Moran realizes that he can vastly increase his profits by partnering with Elmer and Jimmy. But none of them reckons with the competitor, another bootlegger, gangster Butch Lorado. Butch has a girlfriend … Elmer’s dream girl, Hortense.

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