The Session #82: Beery Yarns

The SessionIt’s the first Friday of December and the last first Friday of the year, and for beer bloggers it’s time for another round of The Session! This month’s Session is hosted by Steve Lamond of Beers I’ve Known, and for the topic he’s selected an open-ended one: Beery Yarns.

The nights are drawing in, there may even be snow, what better way to enjoy a beer than in front of a log fire. Turn that TV off and talk to your drinking compatriots. Maybe you’re just at home with some friends or maybe in a decent local boozer chatting to complete strangers. This month I’m going to give you plenty of scope for originality by setting a wide-open theme. I want to hear your beery tall tales, yarns, recollections (in a Grandpa Simpson stylee) or otherwise, delivered in the manner that you befits sitting around a log fire, favourite beer in hand. Only proviso is that it has to involve beer in some way, whether that be a particular beer jogging your memory of a previous event or beer taking a bigger role in the recollected tale. Its up to you. Interjections, corrections, addendums can all be contributed the assembled masses in your comments section.

Tonight the night has drawn in, and there is snow—inches of it, still coming down, and the temperature is in the single digits as Oregon is in the grip of this early-winter cold front—and it’s not hard to imagine that log fireplace roaring and crackling away. It’s on those cold, snowy nights around a fire that a snifter of something strong and warming would hit the spot nicely, and when I think of “yarns” in this context for some reason I think about homebrewing-gone-awry stories.

One immediately comes to mind, and I’ve written about it before but it’s been years so I thought I’d trot out that old story again. I’d first written about this way back in 2005—the exploding geyser of beer:

It was in Spokane, Washington, in the 90’s, and the beer was a fermenting batch of Toad Spit Stout (from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing). I had cooked up the batch of Toad Spit on a Saturday. It was destined to be a crazy batch: there was a bad boilover that coated a good portion of the stove surface and for some reason I stupidly didn’t get around to cleaning it up until the next day.

So the next morning, I’m in the kitchen, scrubbing away at the baked-on wort on the stovetop, and the Toad Spit is in the carboy bubbling away like crazy. I had fashioned a blowoff tube by attaching a regular 3/8-inch siphoning hose to the top of an airlock and thought all would be well (little did I know). While I was scrubbing, I heard a loud “POP!” and turned around in time to see the airlock-blowoff tube falling and dark brown liquid geysering out of the carboy! Literally a geyser; there was half-fermented beer on the walls, the shelves, the nine-foot ceiling. And the floor.

Let me tell you a little bit about this house we were renting: It was a crackerbox. Pretty much a dump, but it sufficed. For some reason, the entire kitchen area was carpeted—yes, carpeted with this scraggly, low blue scruff covering that of course was the perfect canvas for geysering stout. It took me hours just to do a decent preliminary cleanup, and days more getting the stickiness out of it. It was pretty bad.

All in all, I lost about half of the beer of a five-gallon batch. Obviously, what happened was the blowoff tube I devised got clogged with foam and gunk, and the pressure built up til it blew. The guys at the local homebrew shop said I was lucky: they’d known carboys to shatter under similar conditions.

As lucky as I was, I’ll never forget that site of dark brown proto-beer erupting out of the top of that carboy. It was pretty amazing!