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Old 10-29-2012, 11:35 PM   #1
cnest
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Default Explosion! Or, is by Holiday Ale Ruined?

Yesterday was brew day - Brewer's Best Holiday Ale. I followed by typical brewing process (four batches total) with two alterations.

First, I used Star San for the first time. Second, I used a 6.5 gallon plastic carboy for the fermentation vessel rather than a plastic bucket.

So, I get a call from my wife while I'm at work that my beer has exploded. After doing a video chat with her, it looks like the plastic stopper (that had a three piece airlock) was ejected from the plastic carboy, rotated 180 degrees, and landed upside down in the carboy's spout.

Other than a video chat, I haven't been home to see what's going on, but I have a general question and a few related smaller questions.

So, what's going on? I assume that the pressure from the fermentation (I observed bubbles this morning) has built up in the plastic carboy and was not released through the airlock.

What would cause the airlock not to function? My only thought is the foam from either the beer or the Star San has somehow clogged the airlock? Seems a little odd, but its all I've got at the moment?

Should I not have fermented in the carboy?

And most importantly: Is my Holiday Ale ruined? I see two infection possibilities: 1) the airlock landed upside down in the spout of the carboy. Water from the airlock likely leaked into the fermenting beer. 2) the beer was exposed to air. We took the lid off the airlock, the same problem presented itself. Right now, as a stop gap measure, I've asked my wife to remove the airlock from the stopper so that there is a larger hole for the CO2 to pass through and she's loosely placed plastic wrap to lessen contaminants.

Overall, I'm inclined to try and fix the exploding issue (ideas?) and hope it works itself out without getting an infection.

Sorry for the longish post, but I'd appreciate any feedback. With any luck, this will just be a funny story to tell as I drink this beer!

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Old 10-29-2012, 11:53 PM   #2
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Most likely the krausen clogged the airlock resulting in pressure build up. It happens sometimes with very active fermentations. Your best bet is to rig a blow off tube. Just take a length if tubing (I use my racking tubing) insert the one end through the hole in the stopper the airlock is in. And submerge the other end in a container of sanitizer or water to create the airlock. I use a blowoff tube for the first few days if fermentation then switch to a airlock when things calm down some.
Contamination from the airlock is a possibility but I'd think it would be minimal. Airborn contaminates I wouldn't worry about either as the fermentation was most likely producing enough co2 to keep your beer safe.

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Old 10-30-2012, 12:43 AM   #3
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I didn't blow out the airlock, but the krausen came up through the airlock twice today. I dunked a towel into starsan and cleaned it up. Pulled the airlock and cleaned it up. Sanitized it and refilled it with starsan and I'm back in business. I have one of those Midwest fermenters with a small hole where a stopper is not required. I'm going to have to figure out some method of a blow off tube.

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Old 10-30-2012, 01:28 AM   #4
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If you have a three piece airlock you can just stick a hose in the center piece of the airlock.

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Old 10-30-2012, 01:44 AM   #5
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I'll remember that. Thanks.

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Old 10-30-2012, 01:49 PM   #6
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I constructed a blow off tube feeding into a bucket. The beer is fermenting like crazy! Much faster and more powerful than the IPA and amber ales I have brewed in the past. I guess it's the extra corn sugar in the recipe and higher ABV that's causing this strong fermentation.

Anyways, thanks for the advice and reassurance!

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Old 10-30-2012, 02:19 PM   #7
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Glad it's working out for you and you caught it before you had a major mess to clean up. There are plenty of horror stories on here of what happened when it wasn't caught before clogging the airlock.

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Old 10-30-2012, 08:16 PM   #8
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Doesn't have to be high ABV or a lot of sugar in the recipe. Just good temp & a healthy yeast pitch. It creats more co2 & krausen faster than the lil jole in the tip of the airlock can handle & POP! That's why many of us use a blow off rig for the first few days just in case it's a gusher. You're beer will be fine. Too much krausen & co2 for nasties to get in.
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Old 10-31-2012, 03:11 PM   #9
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Wait a minute. You say the stopper blew out of the carboy, flipped around and landed back in the mouth of the carboy? The odds of that have to be astronomical. I would say this is a harbinger of an outstanding Christmas ale for you my friend. Seriously, no one else finds this remarkable?

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Old 10-31-2012, 04:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velorider11 View Post
Wait a minute. You say the stopper blew out of the carboy, flipped around and landed back in the mouth of the carboy? The odds of that have to be astronomical. I would say this is a harbinger of an outstanding Christmas ale for you my friend. Seriously, no one else finds this remarkable?
^This.
There is no way this cannot come out as an extraordinary beer.
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