Exploding growlers, fried circuits, and other homebrewing hilarities

Let’s face it, as guys the kitchen isn’t our usual domain. So while homebrewing, especially for us newbies, we have to be extra careful and mindful of boilovers and whatnot so we don’t ruin the kitchen or worse. Regardless of how much time we take something’s going to go wrong.

During my first homebrew I didn’t know to heat up the malt extract. What happened next was 15 minutes of me shaking this bottle of molasses-looking syrup while standing on a stool (since I’m maybe 5’3″) over this pot of near boiling wort. Lots of sweat and four-letter words were flowing by the end of this. Lesson learned.

I’m hoping mine and some other people’s mistakes will help you to prevent making them yourself. I pestered probably half of the folks I follow on @shortonbeer and got some great stories out of them. Here’s the best of the best. Check out these gentlemen’s blogs and follow them on Twitter if you aren’t already. Feel free to leave your funny homebrewing stories below as well!

David Ackley, LocalBeerBlog.com

A few summers ago, still fairly early in my homebrewing days, I decided to use a growler to bottle my homebrew. For those non-homebrewers out there, when you bottle homebrew, you mix in a small amount of sugar to “prime” your beer. This gives the yeast just a little more food so that they’ll produce a little more CO2 to carbonate your brew. But this also creates a little CO2 pressure inside the bottle. As it turns out, most half-gallon growlers aren’t made to withstand that kind of pressure. So I came home a several days later to find pieces of a growlers and a few pints of beer on the floor of the closet.

I wish I could say lesson learned, but I tried it again a few months later. It was fine until after a family cookout, when I left the growler in a cooler that ran out of ice. As it got warmer, those dormant yeast woke up, and BOOM! Bye-bye beer. Long story short — don’t bottle in growlers!

Billy Broas, BillyBrew.com

I was brewing an Amber ale and the brew day was going smoothly up until I was cooling the wort. I was using an immersion chiller with a garden hose running to it. While walking past my brew stand I tripped on the hose and cup of coffee that was in my hand went flying into the kettle. I fished out the cup but the brew was now infused with 12 oz of Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast blend. It turned into a great Amber with just a bit of coffee flavor, which I’m not sure I actually tasted or merely imagined.

Mike Reinitz, Reinitzgebot.com

The one thing that comes to mind is when I was building my kegerator.  I used a brand new upright freezer that I got for free.  The door has this small digital display unit in the upper left hand corner where you can adjust the coldness (1 to 7).  I was confident that there were not any freezer coils in the door (just insulation), so I started drilling holes for the shanks.  When I pulled the drill bit out after drilling the last hole, I realized I had drilled dead on through a set of wires that went through the door to the digital display.  Then, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to plug the freezer in to make sure it still worked.  As soon as I plugged it in, there were sparks where the broken wires were, so I quickly unplugged it again.  After much cursing (I just ruined a brand new freezer!), I took a deep breath, poured myself a beer, and went back to work.  I ended up dismantling the door completely, removing the insulation, and splicing the wires I had tore apart.  After reassembling the door, I plugged the freezer back in.  There were no sparks this time, but the freezer wouldn’t turn on.  Apparently the sparks last time had fried the circuit board in the display unit, rendering the freezer useless (it completes the circuit).  Luckily, I was able to order a new board/display unit module from the manufacturer–after waiting a few days for it to arrive, I installed it.  Lo and behold, my kegerator was alive!  It’s been running strong for 3 years now.  It was a frustrating day for sure, but I always get a sense of satisfaction when I draw a pint knowing what I went through to have cold beer on tap!

Peter Estaniel, BetterBeerBlog.com

The very first homebrew I attempted I ended up dumping. Turns out I read the thermometer incorrectly that day and pitched my yeast at 170°F instead of 70°F. I wondered why my wort chilled so quickly when everything I had been reading up until that point said it would take a while.

Needless to day, I never made that mistake again. Other mistakes? Plenty. Just not that one.

Jon Jefferson, 10thDayBrewing.blogspot.com

I had one batch that during the mash my manifold came apart.  While sparging the flow completely stopped.  I ended up having to lauter that entire batch through a strainer.

The first time I used the lautering set up I have now, the hose popped off my holding cooler and I ended up with hot water flooding in my kitchen.  Luckily only about a half gallon.

It seems a good amount of my surprises happen when I am lautering.

There was another time I was lautering and the hose jumped out of my kettle.  Ended up with about a half gallon of wort all over my garage floor.