An amusing event *almost* happened this evening and I thought that some of you out there might appreciate it. I'm a big fan of real ale, especially real ale (commercial or homebrew) done on gravity from a pin (4.5 UK gallons) or firkin (9 UK gallons). I have a bit of experience as the Head Cellarman of the past couple of New England Real Ale eXhibitions. You'd think that this would make it easier to do at home but read on..
I'm preparing a pin of my Best Bitter for a Casktoberfest event in a couple of weeks. No biggie. I brewed a 10 gallon batch, let it ferment, then racked 5.2 gallons into my pin and put the rest into a corny. Standard priming rate of 1.2 oz of table sugar. Everything seemed set. Chocked it at 3-9 (keystone at 3 o'clock, bung hole at 9 o'clock, keeps 'em both wet which gives a better seal). Four weeks to go. No problem.
Three weeks to go. No problem. Slight beer aroma from my brewing area, but it's a brewing area.
Two weeks to go. Why does that nylon bag look like it's been wicking up beer? Closer investigation reveals a contained puddle beneath the pin that's starting to expand. Bummer. I move the pin out of the way and begin the clean up. There's a bit of hissing (along with a bit of mold) near the shive, indicating the source of the seepage. It happens. I continue cleaning.
While mopping (and halfway across the room) I hear a *PING*. My shive had popped halfway out but caught itself. Had it kept going it would have been a blown shive, beer all over the floor, a lost batch. With two weeks until the event what remained probably wouldn't have been worth saving. All because the beer gods smiled, came down to my pin, and stopped the shive. Oh, and did I mention that this was at 10:PM as I was headed up to bed?
I paused the cleaning to vent the pin (put a hole in the shive to allow the excess gas to escape), then went back to mopping. Final resolution was to replace the shive. Beer still looked & smelled good. I had lost maybe 1/2 a gallon. Still plenty of beer in there, especially with excessive CO2 taking up the headspace. I took the opportunity to pop in a plug of Fuggles that I had forgotten to put in when filling. It's now back at 3-and-9 with no seepage.
Examining the shive, it looks like a sliver of plastic from the bottom had gotten shaved almost off, then caught and wedged vertically along the rubber that was supposed to seal the pin. Such a tiny thing. These things happen with real ale. Especially in the middle of the night at my house.