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Equipment used to make kilju and a bottle of unclarified kilju.

Kilju (Finnish pronunciation: [╦łkilju]), in English also known as sugar wine, is a Finnish home-made alcoholic beverage made primarily from water, sugar, and yeast. Kilju has a reputation of being a low-quality drink, consumed mainly for the sake of its alcohol content.


Production of kilju

Sugar wine (Kilju) in its 5th day of fermentation. An air lock has been added to keep other microorganisms besides yeast out of the fermenting wine.

Kilju is prepared by allowing a mixture of water, sugar and yeast to ferment. Producing kilju in a proper manner is similar to homebrewing wine, requiring rigorous hygiene and filtering the product. Properly made kilju is a clear, colorless liquid with no discernible taste besides that of ethanol. Kilju can be refined into pontikka (Finnish moonshine) by means of distillation. It would resemble rum, since rum is made from unrefined sugarcane instead of refined crystallized table sugar. In Finnish, a batch of fermenting kilju is often called poika (literally "boy").

Kilju is often produced improperly, allowing contaminants to disrupt fermentation, or by forgoing filtration, leaving large amounts of yeast suspended in the liquid. Especially the latter error is easy to detect since the suspended yeast colours the liquid opaque gray and has a fairly distinctive smell. Both of these errors may render the drink unpalatable, and suspended yeast is prone to upset the stomach of the drinker.

As homebrewing grew in popularity during the economic depression that followed the Finnish banking crisis of the early 1990s yeast strains known as turbo yeast were introduced to the market. These yeast strains allow for a very rapid fermentation to full strength, in some cases in as little as three days, compared to several weeks required by traditional wine yeast strains. Such a short production time naturally does not allow the yeast to sediment. The introduction of turbo yeast strains thus emphasized the role of kilju as a "quick and dirty" method to procure cheap alcohol.


Kilju is often mixed with juice or other beverages to mask side tastes caused by impurities. It is often mixed with orange or lemon juice or other sour fruit juices.

Because kilju does not benefit from maturing, it is best enjoyed fresh. If compared to wines, kilju relates most closely to home-made wine or Beaujolais nouveau, which is enjoyed without any maturation process.

Legal status in Finland

Making kilju out of sugar only is illegal in Finland. Fruit or berries can be used in the fermentation process in order to avoid legal consequences and to flavour the drink.

Cultural aspects

Due to its low cost and simple making method kilju is a relatively common beverage among students and alcoholics. The simple production process also enables underage persons to produce it fairly easily.

Kilju also has a strong association with the Finnish punk subculture due to the DIY- and anti-establishment-aspects of the drink. In Finland, only licensed restaurants and the government monopoly Alko are allowed to sell drinks with an ABV content of over 4.7%. Drinking homebrew can thus be considered a form of anti-authoritarian protest.

In the Finnish edition of the television series Big Brother, Big Brother Suomi 2008, the housemates started brewing kilju due to the low amount of alcohol available in the house.

See also

External links



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