The Real Reason Some Australian Jails Have Banned Vegemite

Considering Vegemite is such an acquired taste, some may consider this Australian food spread a crime in itself, or the banning of it a cause for the common good. Some Australian prisons, however, are banning it for reasons that have nothing to do with its particular taste. According to The Age, Australian prisoners have been using Vegemite not to slather their food with, but rather to turn into alcohol.

Authorities have been cracking down on these activities, to the point of the Department of Justice banning Vegemite in prisons. The yeast-heavy spread is so conducive to brewing alcohol that prisoners have been melting it down to ferment things as common as basic carbs or sugar into their own bootleg booze. This has been the case particularly during the lead up to the holiday season. 

According to the spokesperson for the Brimbank Legal Centre, there have even been deaths related to alcohol, presumably on account of the Vegemite issue. As if there wasn't enough of a reason to stay away from it.

The truth about making Vegemite beer

While these prisoners seem to be creating their own grog with Vegemite, researchers have deemed it impossible to do with the spread alone, according to Good Food. Vegemite may have a whole lot of yeast in it, but it does not contain live or active yeast that would make sugar ferment on its own. 

Then again, it has been found that the non-active yeast in Vegemite helps the fermentation process move a lot faster than it would with only sugar and live yeast. The question is: Would you really want it?

On one hand, University of Queensland researchers deem 375 ml of homemade Vegemite beer would cost about 27 cents compared to the $1.60 it costs for a commercial bottle. On the other hand, Dr. Ben Shultz of University of Queensland admits that "it's pretty awful stuff," and that "at a stretch you can call it beer." So while it may still be a mystery how these prisoners are obtaining the live yeast to make Vegemite beer, why anyone would even try it is equally perplexing.