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A clear glass chemist bottle of Sykes's Herb Beer Extract. The bottle features a yellow paper label with a red border and black text and has a black screw top lid. " SYKES'S / HERB BEER / EXTRACT / 1/6 BOTTLE PRODUCES 8 GALLONS / OF SPARKLING BOTANIC BEER. / A. E. Sykes & Sons Ltd. / Manufacturing Chemists, / NEW PLYMOUTH. " is written on the front of the label. " This highly concentrated Fluid Extract is composed of the best English Herbs , Hops , Dandelion, Meadow / Sweet / Horehound, etc. / A. E SYKES & SONS LTD. / MANUFACTURING CHEMISTS NEW PLYMOUTH. " is written on one side of the label. " DIRECTIONS FOR USE. / Dissolve two pounds of sugar in one quart of boiling water / then make up to two gallons with cold water, add two / tablespoonsfuls of Herb Beer extract, mix thoroughly and add / three tablespoonfuls of yeast or one ounce of German yeast. / Stand in a warm place for 24 hours and bottle for use. " is written on the other side. A dark brown, thick residue coats much of the interior of the bottle.
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Just how much should you trust a manufacturing chemist? This bottle of Herb Beer Extract, brewed by the high profile New Plymouth company A. E. Sykes and Sons, is upfront about some of its rather exotic sounding ingredients including Horehound, Meadow Sweet and Dandelion, but it also leaves the door open with a mysterious “etc” in the list of ingredients.The label tells users to dissolve two pounds of sugar in a quart of boiling water, top the mixture up with cold water and yeast before adding two tablespoons of Herb Beer Extract. Once the brew was allowed to stand in a warm place for 24 hours a “Sparkling Botanic Beer” would result. Judging the quality of the beverage by the dark, sticky gunk that still clings to the interior would be unfair and perhaps it could have been quite drinkable. After all, it was produced by the same firm that served up the much loved Sykes’s range of cordials for many years. For more information see Cattle Enemas and Cordial: Sykes’s in in Moffat, A. Flashback: Tales and Treasures of Taranaki. Wellington, Huia, 2012, pp. 42-47.
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