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Brew or Die

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Rating: 3.5/5 (52 votes)
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Brew or Die

Ally[New Version: July 2014]

It is every alchemist's dream to discover the Elixir of Life, that mystical brew which grants its drinker eternal youth. But in Tim Ned Atton's Brew or Die, the King has decreed that you should be achieving your dreams quite a bit sooner than you had initially expected. Now, just as the full moon begins to peek into your window, he has locked you in your alchemy tower, with only a surly guard and a contingent of rats for company. You have until the break of dawn to successfully discover (and concoct) this legendary potion. The king has left you but a few tools of your trade to work with: Leftover potions, the remnants of failed experiments. Tea leaves, for analyzing brews. Various metals, for transmuting potions. And of course your great alchemical reference tome, full of tips and recipes. Succeed in creating the elixir, and you will have your freedom. Brew or Die is one of those puzzle games where the thrill of discovery is easily one of the best parts of it, such that spoiling too much about it would ruin part of the fun. Fail the moody king, however, and the gallows await.

Brew or DieThe game puts you in the shoes of what is essentially a medieval mad scientist, and in order to succeed, you'll have to think like a scientist yourself. Randomly mixing potions will only get you so far. This is a game that asks you to hypothesize, to observe, to take notes, and to make use of everything in your surroundings to figure out how it works, and what you need to be doing. And you've got to do it on a time limit, too! The game randomizes certain elements on every playthrough, and there's no save function, which can make the challenge feel overwhelming at times. As a small concession, you can choose to play again with the same variables when you get a game over, so you don't have to "relearn" everything. And since there's only one way to "win", and many, many unique ways to lose, you'll probably end up experimenting across several playthroughs before discovering the Elixir. It's not a simple process. But the "lightbulb" moments are incredibly satisfying, and the atmosphere the game concocts is rich and fantastic despite its low-rez graphics. Even the bad ends are creative and entertaining enough to be worth seeking out. Brew or Die is a challenging game that asks the player to drink deeply from it. Why not take a sip and see what happens?

Play Brew or Die


neo1973 May 27, 2014 3:09 PM

Firefox is throwing an error, saying the plug-in needs an update. Unfortunately, when you click go to updates, there is no Unity player update available.

I clicked to bypass and play anyway, seems to be fine.

arcthurus May 27, 2014 4:33 PM

I don't know why,but the game says "there is not avaible plugins to this content".Using google chrome.

Not playable.


firefox, was throwing me an error saying 'bad file length' for unity

arcthurus May 27, 2014 5:20 PM

nvm,game is working already.

Must say i'm disappointed with this game.All the trial-and-error that doesn't show much for me...ugh.Have to note down all those words,all the time,then checking on book if there is any potion that is near as mine,etc. Disliked it much.


Things I've noticed:

You can get more of any potion by mixing it with water, and you can get more water by giving an empty bottle to the guard.

Mercury potion contains all of the smells. Combine two mercury potions, and you get water. It contains none of the smells. I think this means that when you combine new potions, they carry over the properties of either, but if they share a property, it is nullified in the mixture.

I think each potion is determined by its smells. You can determine the smells by using tea leaves (takes a while) or throwing into the fire (dangerous). With the above observations, you should be able to work your way towards the recipes.

I still don't know what boiling does to potions though.


A few more things

If you give the guard a jelly potion, he'll give you a knife. You might be able to bribe him with an ale potion or poison him with a poisonous ale potion, but I haven't had time to test this out.


Partial Guide:

Basic mixing:

There are 16 of what I'll call ingredients in each potion. Water has none of them, and mercury has all of them. You can figure out what they are by reading tea leaves (takes a while) or throwing them into the fire (dangerous). Smelling gives one of these ingredients. If you mix two potions together, their ingredients are combined; doubled ingredients will be nullified. For example, mixing any potion with itself nullifies all ingredients and gives water, and mixing any potion with water gives back the original potion. You can use the unlimited water to your advantage, so you need not worry about running out of any potion.

Recipes and potion properties:

There are some recipes in the tome, though many recipes and properties are not listed. Properties can be good or bad, and are arguably the most interesting aspect of this game. You can discover these by drinking potions, but be sure to feed them to a rat first. If nothing else, this will tell you if the potion has a game-ending property. Recipes are randomized between games, unfortunately.


Give an empty potion to the guard, and he'll give you water. Pour a potion in a full bottle of water, and you'll instantly have a full bottle of the potion. Ask for help, and the guard tells you what you can exchange for a knife. Look at each potion to see if it has that property. I don't know what the knife is useful for, nor do I know how to bribe the guard.


These are a useful way to work towards known recipes. They add or remove one ingredient to the potion. It's hard to control what the ingredient is, unfortunately. Be careful, as you have a limited number of these coins. It's possible you can make more, seeing as it may be the way to bribe the guard.


You can boil away ingredients from potions. Add one cup of the potion, and fill with water until it boils. This will remove three cups from the cauldron. You can also mix potions in the cauldron.


Most potion properties, how to bribe the guard, how the "years passing/turning back" works and whether or not it relates to time, whether or not you can turn back time or create coins, etc.

There's still a lot I haven't discovered. I haven't even been able to find a good ending. At this point, I feel like just mixing and drinking random potions will give you the most interesting outcomes. They could kill you, but they could also make you immune to poison and allow for further reckless chugging.

ChaoSpectre May 27, 2014 11:59 PM

Regarding the mouse...

Some things that kill the mouse may only age you several years. The mouse isn't very good at telling you anything besides which direction you might age in, if you might die, or if you'll transform.

For the record, the knife...

...if you're fortunate enough to get it, is your only defense against a certain terrible ending involving a rat.

Regarding beneficial potion effects

Extrasensory doesn't seem that useful when compared to fireproof, but is probably more likely. Extrasensory gives you one extra odor when you smell...

...but fireproof allows you to withstand explosions, which means you can take full advantage of igniting potions without consequence.

Beyond fireproof, there's fortitude. Fortitude gives you natural resistance to nauseating potions, which will save you time should you stumble onto one. I also noticed that I had a significantly higher threshold for aging in potions (losing 8 years was a record) and an interesting lack of poison death, but I cannot confirm the correlation.

I still have yet to determine how the primary and secondary effects of potions are determined, or the most effective use of coins.

However, on coins and boiling:

I have seen two effects that the coins have (although which coin has what effect is something you have to determine on each new starting position).

Two coins should add at least one new odor whenever added to a potion. I have no idea if there is an order to the odors, since there aren't enough coins to repeat over the sequence of odors. The coins that add odors don't seem to care what is in the potion, as they can be inserted into the same potion two different times and provide two different odors.

One of the coins will transmute odors into other odors. This is primarily a way to turn a low odor potion into something completely different and perhaps provide a new vector towards your target potion composition.

I include boiling because it appears to be another randomized effect. It removes exactly 4 odors from a potion.

I have hunches about how to approach the game:

1. Work in a spreadsheet and take your own notes. The game's notes are clumsy and take up time. You don't have to do tea readings if you can write down the results of igniting potions. Also, keeping track of odors in rows or columns across potions can help you do the potion arithmetic, which is actually logic arithmetic.

2. Understand the logical arithmetic. The simple functions are XOR for mixing potions, which turns into NOT for mixing with Mercury.

3. Maybe a good idea is to sit down with the recipes in the book and determine common odors among them? Potion types in the recipe book have three varieties. It might make it easier to go after some of the beneficial potions or avoid the nasty ones.

I'm right here scrubbing bottles along with you guys.

Hang in there. We'll get out of this tower yet.


As a reminder:

Don't mix same potions from 2 containers.

You'll yield water as mixing is XOR.

Instead add water if potions aren't enough.

That's one of the mistake I made in my first attempt at this game.

vritra22189 May 28, 2014 1:08 AM

on how the cauldron works:

it seems it will boils away 3 cups of potion
and removing 4 random properties.
not sure if there are any priority on the properties.
and from the above, it is very possible to make every pure properties for testing


I'm out!

Each ingredient/odor either either makes you younger or older, and the elixir of eternal youth is a combination of all ingredients that make you younger, with none of the ingredients that make you older. With the coins, it's easy to construct the right potion.

The way I did it, you need to drink a bunch of single-odor potions. Make a youthful odor by starting with water and adding only the youthful ingredients.

Each coin either gives an ingredient to water or changes a one-odor potion to another; it's easy to figure out which is which by trying to add each to water. Just make a one-odor potion, smell it, drink it, and keep track of if it's youthful or aging. If it's a youthful odor you haven't already had, add it to your youthful potion. All one-odor potions are safe to drink.

If you run out of coins, you can make potions with only a few odors by boiling away odors from those that have many.


Correction involving coins:

The above are not the only possible effects of coins, but they are the most convenient ones. If you want, you can just refresh until you only get coins that have those effects.

kdausman May 28, 2014 12:43 PM

How many scents are removed by boiling varies from game to game. I've had 4 removed and 5 removed so far.


I've had 2 removed for each boiling in cauldron.

fuzzyface May 29, 2014 5:56 PM

Unity for this, really? When you don't like Flash (which I understand) can you please go for HTML5 next time?

kdausman May 30, 2014 12:10 AM

Wow, I spent way too much effort on this. I made an Excel Workbook from h311 to keep track of everything. First sheet I put all of the known recipes including single-scent recipes (since those are particularly important). Third sheet I put the starting potions including water and mercury, as well as five empty spots for the test flasks. Second sheet I calculated every possible combination of the starting potions, mercury, and the test flasks (columns went out to CAZ... yeah, had some that mixed with water, which was useless to tally, but it was easier to leave it that way than change it), and compared them all to the known recipes. Back on the third sheet I tallied how many different ways it was possible to get to any of the known recipes just by mixing the current set of potions. That way, if there was some way to get to panacea, extrasensory, or fireproof (or a single-scent potion) without using the cauldron or the coins, I would immediately know it. It was a lot of work, but really helps.


It always removes 3 cups of liquid, so make sure you have at least four cups in it. Generally, put your potion of interest in, add water until you have four cups or more, and make sure you have an empty flask ready. I've seen the cauldron removing anywhere from 2 to 5 scents at a time, but it's constant in a given scenario.


I've seen the following types:

  • Remove one or two scents (constant withing a given scenario); useful to aim for specific single scents near the end.

  • Add one scent; most useful added to water to generate a single-scent potion for testing. This and the next one are the most useful coins.

  • Change scents (leaves the number the same, but changes some... maybe all); the only thing I've done with this is to change a single-scent potion into a different single-scent potion.

  • Some strange things. When I start with water, I sometimes end up with 7-8 scent potions. Not very useful.

I've had cases where multiple coin types do the same thing.

Mixing rules:

Earlier posters are exactly correct: each scent XORs with itself across the two potions. This is why my workbook (sheet 2) was possible... addition order doesn't matter.

Special potion types:

The recipe list gives examples (and these are ONLY examples) of extrasensory, fireproof, noxious, poison, panacea, and explosive. I have also seen a potion that heightens awareness of the supernatural (something occasionally writes info about potions in the book), transforms the drinker into an insane monster, makes the drinker slightly drunk, and adds fortitude (without obvious effect).

Speculation: There are three examples given of each of the six potion types listed in the book. Some scents all three potions of a given type have. Some scents only some of the three have. Some none of them have. Perhaps the ones that all of them have and the ones that none of them have are the minimum set of criteria for a potion of that type (with the ones that only some of them have not mattering). Counterargument: I have occasionally found single-scent potions that have a special property.


When you drink a potion, it will age you a certain number of years, reduce your age by a certain number of years, or leave you the same age (i.e., change you by zero years). Single-scent potions fall into two categories, but what those categories are vary from scenario to scenario. I've had +1/-1, +2/0, +3/+1, -1/-3. You only reliably find out which category the single-scent potions fit into by drinking it. Fortunately, it is very rare for a single-scent potion to have a negative effect other than aging (I think I had one case where it was poisonous, but I might have mis-mixed beforehand). It is, however, possible to die by getting too old, so if you're in a +3/+1 scenario, be careful!


You win by making the potion of eternal youth. As earlier posters have indicated, this potion consists of all of the scents that fall into the younger category, and none of the scents that fall into the older category. So if you are in a +1/-1 scenario, you want all of the -1 scents. But if you are in a +3/+1 scenario, you want all of the +1 scents.

My strategy:

The tea leaves are useful, safe, and slow. Always have something working with the leaves. We have four initial objectives:

  1. Identify the five starting potions (change their names immediately to 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Go ahead and start by putting potion 1 in with the tea leaves. Check it periodically to see if it's ready to be read. When it is, read it (and take notes), remove it (quaffing it if it's a useful potion), toss it out the window, and start on the next unknown. Actually, reverse those last two steps to speed up how quickly you get through the list of unknowns.

  2. Determine how many scents the cauldron removes. Put mercury (which contains all scents) in the cauldron, dilute with water, and remove into the first empty flask. This becomes unknown #6. When you test this one with the tea leaves, see how many of the scents are gone.

  3. Determine what each coin type does. Put water in a flask and add a coin. If it stays water, then the coin either changes an existing scent or removes a scent. If it becomes an unknown, then it either adds a single scent or is one of the crazy ones that's not worth using. If it is an unknown, add water and then decide how much risk you want to take. You can either add it to your list of unknowns for use with the tea leaves or you can toss it in the fire. For tossing it in the fire to be dangerous, it would have to (a) be one of the crazy coins and (b) a very unlucky combination of scents, so I usually toss it in the fire. If you're lucky, it's a single scent. Keep that for the next objective (below). Once you have a single-scent potion, add water, divide it into two flasks, and try any coins that didn't change water. Note the ones that remove and the ones that change.

  4. Identify the aging effects of any single-scent potions you come across. Hopefully the coins will get you to at least one single-scent potion. Add water and drink a cup to determine what it does in terms of aging. Once you know which aging effect is the younger of the two, start mixing those, and only those, in the far-right flask. As you work your way through all of the scents, you'll be building up the final potion there. Make sure you keep some of the single-scent potion before putting it in the far-right one, because you will be adding change-coins to it to get to the NEXT single-scent potion. If you know the coin only changes a scent, you can simply smell it to identify the new scent -- fast and safe. Keep going with change-coins and then add-single-scent coins (added to water) until you run out of those coins. Hopefully by this point you'll have most of your single-scent potions' aging effects identified.

While you are working toward those four objectives, keep the following points in mind:

  • Rename every potion. If it is a single-scent potion, just call it by the single scent. If it is a two, three, or maybe four, you can just list those scents. Once you get to higher than that, you'll need to abbreviate.

  • Do not work toward the four initial objectives sequentially... do them simultaneously. Come back to check the tea leaves, and when they can be read, deal with that potion and get another one going. Whenever you get a single-scent potion, figure out its aging effect.

  • If you are using something like the spreadsheet that I mentioned, keep checking to see if there's a potion you can get to that has a useful property, especially supernatural senses, heightened senses, fireproof, and panacea. If you find one, dump the water bottle so you have something empty to work with (after ensuring that all of the other potions you need have at least 2 cups in them), and mix it there. Drink it, dump it, and then refill with water.

More than likely you will get through all of the useful coins before you have identified the aging effects of all of the single-scent potions. At that point, you will have to start thinking. Suppose, for example, that your cauldron removes four scents. So, do whatever you can to make a five-scent potion where at least one of those scents is one of your unknowns. Save some of the five-scent potion, boil the rest in the cauldron, and see which it is (just by smelling). If it's the right one, you win. If it's not, start putting the wrong ones in a mixing flask. If you get all four wrong ones before the right one, mix the combined four with the five-scent potion to get the one you were aiming at.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I have won with this strategy four of the last four games I have played.


I want to play this game, but I'm daunted by the idea that I have to set up a multi-page spreadsheet to do it...

kdausman May 30, 2014 10:19 PM

Lucie: You don't have to. That's primarily to help you get the special potions. You don't need those to win.


Thanks, @kdausman. Another question: Since I can only hang onto a limited selection of potions at a time, what system do you use for what to keep and what to toss?

kdausman June 1, 2014 11:45 PM

I ensure I keep each single-scent one until I know if it's in the low-age category. If so, I just combine it with my growing mix of low-age scents. There's little point in keeping anything after that, though.


Every time I try to use the cauldron and add water, when I come back, the cauldron is empty. How do I get the potion out before it boils away???

kdausman June 2, 2014 8:15 PM

Princess: You have to have at least 4 cups of liquid in it, because the boiling, when it happens, instantly boils away 3 cups. The minute it goes from a flat surface to an apparently-boiling graphic, this has happened, and you need to remove it right away.


Hello everyone,

Loving this game, although i kinda miss "additional" features (alternate ending & such)

Anyway I've been doing a fair bit of deep analysis and i figured i'd share some of the inner workings. kdausman already revealed quite a lot, so if you haven't read his post yet, you might want to do so now :)

Potions & scents basis

Every potion is made of 16 components, each being "present" or "not present". Their names are randomized (in one game the first one might be "putrid", in another it would be "exotic", ...), but their colors are NOT. Exotic is always the same shade of red, for instance. With a bit of practice, this means you don't need to smell single-ingredient potions to know what's in it.

The game will always display the scents in the same order, so your first task should be to get the ordered list for your game (to make tracking everything easy). The fastest way to do so is probably throwing mercury into the fire, but IT CAN explode. The safest way is to browse through all known recipes and build the list as you read them.

Special potions

Every "special" potion (extrasensory, fireproof, ...) is defined by
- having a few (random, i've seen 0 to 5) scents
- NOT having a few (again, random number) scents

For example, fireproof potions might be "Woody and Putrid and NOT burnt". Any potions including woody and putrid but not burnt would then be a fireproof potion.
When a potion matches more than one "special" potions, it acts as all of them. It is sometimes possible to have a "fortitude, fireproof, panacea" potion.

Two quick notes regarding poison : it CAN roll without any need for a specific scent. I've seen Poison : "Not woody, not fishy", so ANY potion without either of these two was deadly. Including single scents.
Imagine how painful a game it was...

A potion CAN be poisonous and panacea. If you drink it without previous panacea protection, you will die.


Many basic effects have already been highlighted, but i'd like to add a few tricky and most useful possibilities :
- Add a scent to the mixture
- Add a scent not already present in the mixture. These two look the same (usually applied to water), but they actually are not and the distinction can be very useful.

- Remove an "aging" scent from the mixture. If you identify one of these (and it's not gold, due to quantity), just throw them into mercury until it stabilizes and voila : one potion of Eternal Youth without any mixing !

Guard interactions

There are two ways the guard can help
- getting him a "bribe" will add some time before your execution. Simply give him some booze ("tipsy" potion). Easiest way is probably to poor a single shot of everything you make and try to give it to him. He'll know if it's tipsy or not.
- asking for his help, he'll requests a specific potion appearance. "Look closely" every potion you happen to make and you should easily obtain his "help" : a knife.

Easy strategy (not enough for 100% wins)

If you can massively create single-scents potions (iron is often a great source of those), through everything out except mercury, then create about 8 single-scents.
- Identify them from their smell (or color !) and name them
- (optional) test them on a rat
- drink a few safe ones and note the age variation until you find two with different variation (example : one doing nothing and one aging you by 2 years). The "youth-er" one is GOOD, the other one is BAD.
- identify as many as you can and keep two bottles, one with "all good", one with "all bad"
- once/if you run out of ways to make the missing scents, you should still have several single-scents (the last ones you made), and the GOOD and the BAD potions. Mix good and bad in a different bottle (to preserve them both !), and add mercury : you now have a potion with the missing scents.
- Start using the cauldron to isolate single scents from that one potion (you might need to throw in one or two identified scents to have exactly 1 scent post-cauldron), and again add them into GOOD or BAD.
- Keep testing GOOD or BAD+mercury every time you do so (don't forget it could be poison)

Also if anyone has detailed knowledge regarding the following potions i'd love to learn

Fortitude : not sure what it does
Monster : i know what it does but it's usually SO difficult to make, i've never been able to fully test it
Boundless energy : no idea what it does

Tim Ned Atton July 11, 2014 6:45 PM

Hello, this is the creator here! I wish I found this page sooner; reading all your theories is really fun. I'm glad most of you enjoy the game!

I made this pretty quickly - on weekends during one month - so, it's lacking many things. I hope to make an expanded version with more features and content in the future!

Thanks for playing!

shipoopie July 31, 2014 10:02 PM

What's new in this version?


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