I told this story to my buddy and he thought it was hilarious. I, at least at the time, was mortified and didn’t find it as funny, but at least I learned a lot about my new equipment.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon! My parents were visiting from out of town, and I had saved a SNPA clone to brew when dad came in to show him my brew process. I had a nice chilled keg of IPA in the kegerator, and SWMBO was cooking steaks and shrimp for dinner! Wonderful day!
I just got new 1/2" hoses, SS quick connects, a plate chiller to do the chilling, and did a test run with 5 gallons of water a few nights before. The system worked flawlessly! The boil went fine, hop additions check; I had a good boil and no boil overs. It was a wonderful brew day! Birds were chirping, 80 degrees, a nice breeze, and cold beer.
Fire out, and drop in my last hop additions. MMmmm Cascades! I take the molten hot wort into the kitchen from the patio and set it on the counter. I whirlpool as normal and begin gathering my hoses, chiller, connectors, etc. Everything is connected! Looks great, checked and rechecked! Turn the ball valve on the fermentor to open, turn the ball valve on the brew pot to open, and the wort begins to flow!! Chiller working like a charm, nice cool wort begins to fill my conical fermentor! Everything seems to be in order. Man I am a genius!
Then it all goes wrong. BIG TIME.
I guess I didn't consider the fact that my hoses, as they began to heat up would become more pliable. They were the extra thick walled veriety right? A small drip begins to form at the barb on the brew pot quick connect. No biggie, I grab a bowl and place it on the floor to catch the small drip. After about 5 minutes, I've got about 1 gallon in the fermentor, and things seemed to have slowed down significantly. Well this sucks. I used hop pellets and I guess my “whirlpool” was disturbed by the “hop filter” I put on the dip tube, so lots of hop matter had made it’s way into the chiller, and stopped it up.
So I start squeezing the hose to coax the wort through the chiller, it’s moving, but not enough to get the job done. I’d be there all night! Ok, what now… So I get a brilliant idea! If I can hook the suction of a vacuum cleaner up to the top of the conical fermentor, then I can create a vacuum in the fermentor and the wort should have enough negative pressure to flow through the chiller. BRILLIANT!
And it was… For about 2 gallons… Wort started flowing, and life was good again. At this point the hoses really started softening up. I had my dad to hold the hose tight against the brew pot barb so it won’t shoot off. Its leak by this point moved from a drip to a trickle. Then I noticed a leak forming at the base of the chiller “wort in” barb (ie. The hot side). Crap… Sticky wort was pudding up on the floor. Stay calm, nobody panic, I can fix this.
I can already see a look of fear in my father’s eyes as he’s looking at me for reassurance that the situation is under control and is hopefully getting better. “I have some plastic clamps that might fit these barbs in my box of brew goodies I think. I’ll go check, be right back.”
No sooner had I got out of eye shot, I hear him screaming “SON! SON! SON!!!” I run back into the kitchen to see what the hell had gone wrong now! He’s standing there holding the top barb firmly to the brew pot, franticly dancing around, avoiding scalding hot wort that is flailing from the hose that just popped off chiller’s “Wort In” barb, the vacuum cleaner is screaming trying to suck air out of the fermentor, and my SWMBO is standing in the opening of the kitchen eyes wide in horror of the whole situation.
I lurch straight to the flailing hose, get it reattached, shut the ball valves, shut the vacuum cleaner off, and try to restore sanity to the whole situation. “Crap, there goes my brew rights forever!” I’m thinking, so I turn to the SWMBO and say “I swear I’ll clean everything up! Everything is under control”. She shakes her head and walks back into the living room with my mom. Dad at this point runs off to the bathroom to wash the sticky wort off his hands and check for burns. I’m standing in a big ass mess. I’ve got about 3 gallons of wort in my fermentor, a half gallon on the floor creeping into every nook and cranny in my kitchen, and still a good 2 gallons of rocket hot wort left in the kettle.
I broke. I didn’t care about the beer anymore. I just wanted to wipe the whole experience from my mind. So I bypassed the chiller, went straight into the fermentor, grabbed a bunch of towels and started cleaning up my mess.
After about an hour, I finally got everything cleaned up, the wort (a little less than 4 gallons now) was in my brew closet, aerated, starter pitched, and beginning its transformation into the beautiful liquid that justifies this nightmare we sometimes go though. So I pulled a big cold pint of beer and sat on the porch alone to lick my wounds.
My friend calls it an “India Fail Ale”, and still laughs at me every time I comment on its progress, but lessons learned. Right? So far the IFA is coming along nicely. Smells great, taste great, and is aging in a keg awaiting it’s day to be enjoyed.
Moral of the story, make sure you’ve used your system a few times before you try to show it off to someone new. Lol. That, and oh yea… Hose clamps are a must and hop bags if you have a plate chiller.
What's your story?