• Beer Brewers Taking Action After More Plastic Kegs Explode

    Photo: SaferProducts.gov

    The recent explosion at Sam Adams and the one earlier this year at Redhook both involved plastic kegs (pictured above).   Here is a brief description of the potential issue from SaferProducts.gov:

    Incident Description
    During standard cleaning procedures, we had a plastic 1/6 bbl. keg manufactured by PKA, Plastic Kegs of America, explode at the seams. this has happened to us twice with individual kegs. We had our instrumentation inspected and it was functioning properly. Apparently there is an installed “safety disc” that will fail prior to the keg exploding as it did….the safety feature was never initiated. Fortunately no injuries were sustained. I have contacted PKA about this and they have been slow to respond. I know there are numerous accounts of this and one ended in death.


    We have discontinued use of this product and I have emailed my PKA rep to arrange a potential buy back for retesting. Email sent on 8.14.12, no response as of 2:25pm EST


    Incident Date

    This issue seems to be a large problem that needs to be corrected quickly.  At Ghost River Brewing they have installed the keg washers behind  a plexiglass shield.

    Ghost River created an enclosure around its pressurized keg washer, with a locking door. He said it was “just a recognition that what can go wrong typically will.”


    In a message on Twitter, Ghost River employee Joey Vaughan gave a more detailed explanation. It was accompanied by a photo of a broken plastic keg.


    “This is why I stand behind a 1/2-inch thick Lexan blast shield when filling plastic kegs,” Vaughan wrote. “Sometimes, they blow up.”


    Vaughan, who now owns a craft beer retail store in Mississippi, told Foster’s he witnessed five plastic beer kegs rupture during his time as an employee at Ghost River, where he operated the keg washer.

    Why are these kegs used in place of metal kegs?

    Jim Holton, owner of Mount Pleasant Brewing Company in Michigan, said he’s been using plastic kegs for about five years, ranging from the original European models to newer kegs designed by PKA when it opened in California.


    “It was a great option for a startup brewery because stainless steel costs have skyrocketed,” he said.


    The brewery was also suffering from theft of its kegs by people hoping to sell them as scrap metal. Mount Pleasant lost about 100 stainless steel kegs to theft in three years, he said.

    But this budget saving measure comes at a potentially high cost.

    Holton said he contacted PKA after the explosion at Redhook, and was assured of the product’s safety.


    Then on Aug. 6, one of the plastic kegs exploded while it was being cleaned on an automated machine, Holton said. One half of the keg soared upward, denting a 20-foot-high ceiling, and the bottom half slammed into the machine.


    “If a brewer or a human being was standing over that keg when that happened, I see no reason why they would have survived that,” Holton said. “I think it would have been a catastrophic accident.”


    After the accident, brewery workers inspected their equipment and discovered a pressure reducing valve wasn’t working properly. As a result, the pressure being pumped into the keg could have reached as high as 100 psi, the maximum rating for the air compressor feeding the machine.


    Plastic Kegs America indicates on its website that the product is designed to operate at a maximum pressure of 60 psi.


    Holton said the brewery has now installed a double pressure relief valve and other safety components to prevent another keg from blowing out.


    “Our incident was luckily that we lose a keg,” he said. “We don’t lose a human life.”

    It seems that Plastic Kegs America is trying to bury their head in the sand when it comes to dealing with this issue.

    Foster’s Daily Democrat obtained a copy of an Aug. 15 email message sent by PKA Sales Manager Darcie Symons to the Brewers Association’s internal mailing list. The message indicates the company’s products have a maximum working pressure of 60 psi and that the kegs will rupture at a minimum of 90 psi.


    “Based on the information Plastic Kegs America has to date, in all instances of purported failure, the kegs have either been pressurized above 90 psi or have been damaged after being manufactured and sold,” Symons wrote. “We take every report seriously and investigate all claims. Plastic Keg America extends its deepest sympathies with regard to the accident in New Hampshire.”


    PKA founder Simon Wheaton declined to comment on the Redhook investigation when he was contacted earlier this month.


    “I think we both realize the direction that you’re coming,” Wheaton said in a phone interview, “and I think on advice I have no comment to make at this time.”

    Has industry perception of the plastic kegs changed since these incidents?

    “The only bad thing about them is their sort of perception on the market,” he said.


    However, that perception is starting to impact the brewery’s bottom line. Hermannsson said contractors who brew the company’s beer have stopped filling and cleaning plastic kegs. The brewery was also required to use stainless steel kegs at The Great American Beer Festival in Denver earlier this month. The Brewers Association, which sponsors the annual event, did not allow plastic kegs this year.


    Jeremy Pate, an Alabama brewery industry consultant, said he’s been contacted by at least one client since the death at Redhook who was seeking advice about whether to use plastic kegs.


    “I said, ‘Well, basically, I’m not afraid of plastic kegs,’” he remembered. “I understand, basically, how they’re constructed. I understand that when manually washing kegs, I would have all of my safety regulators presets well below the safety standards of those kegs. If you have plastic kegs, you cannot run and treat them like stainless steel kegs.”


    For me, I understand that there is a cost savings in using these kegs, but if there aren’t better safety measures in place to protect those around the kegs, maybe the savings just aren’t worth the risk.


    Source: http://www.fosters.com/

  • 2 People Injured in Small Explosion at Samuel Adams Brewery in Lehigh County

    First it was Redhook, now it is Sam Adams.  This time, however, no one died.

    Two Sam Adams employees suffered minor injuries in an explosion Thursday at the brewery in the Fogelsville section of Upper Macungie Township, officials said.


    Michelle Sullivan, a brewery spokeswoman, said a small explosion in the boiler room just before noon injured the two-man crew working inside. One of the men suffered eye irritation and the other had a bump on his head, but neither required hospitalization, she said.


    Sullivan said that after 911 was called, the entire brewery at 7880 Penn Drive, along Interstate 78, was shut down and evacuated.


    She said the boiler room is in a separate room and only t two men were there at the time. She said brewery officials are investigating the cause of the explosion.

    It seems these kegs that are being used aren’t exactly safe.  Maybe plastic kegs aren’t the way to go.

    Source: http://articles.mcall.com/

  • Beer Commemorating 150th Anniversary of American Civil War

    We’ve talked about digging up old beer recipes on this site before, and it seems it is being done again, this time to brew nine beers to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

    The first of nine beers to commemorate the 150th Civil War anniversary — Antietam Ale — is now on tap.


    The concoction was derived from a number of beer recipes from the 1800s and researched by National Museum of Civil War Medicine researcher Terry Reimer.


    Monocacy Brewing Co. in Frederick bottled the first batch Sept. 28 for distribution.


    Antietam Ale is based on a recipe for an English-style ale once brewed by Brewer’s Alley — a style commonly referred to as an ordinary bitter, Brewer’s Alley marketing manager Jim Bauckman said.


    The National Museum of Civil War Medicine provided brewmaster Tom Flores with a variety of historic recipes that likely resemble the flavor profile of Antietam Ale, Bauckman said.


    “What I like about this museum is we not only educate about and interpret the Civil War, the story we tell is really about the lives of the individuals during that period, and a great part of that experience was camp life,” Price said.


    Actual fighting consisted of 45 days out of 1,500 days over four years, Price said. And as the saying goes, “war is an organized bore,” so there was a lot of idle time.


    A picture of soldiers and Gen. George Custer and empty beer bottles and pipes was used for the beer bottle emblem.


    Beer bottle collectors may have something special to add to their collection. For the second time in American history, the federal government has allowed the American flag to be on a beer bottle, Price said.


    Federal regulators initially balked at the idea, Price said, but he made the case that the flag is part of the museum’s logo and the project is about educating the public about an important part of American history, and they yielded.


    Brewer’s Alley co-owner Phil Bowers said he is excited about the idea.


    “It’s a great way to celebrate the Civil War anniversary, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and downtown Frederick,” Bowers said, “and it’s a great opportunity to keep pushing the great things we’re doing in Frederick.


    “Phil understood that if visitors come to the museum, they would go try a Civil War beer afterward,” Price said. “And we knew that a Civil War beer would get our brand and our logo into people’s hands who wouldn’t ordinarily come to the museum, plus it gives us huge exposure.”


    Bowers will donate $1 to the museum for every case of beer sold.


    The beer is on tap at Brewer’s Alley and Price has already received orders from as far away as California for cases of beer.


    The plan is to brew nine beers over two years — one every three or four months, Price said.


    The next beer, “Proclamation Porter,” will be released in January to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Source: http://www.daytondailynews.com/

  • 10 States that Sell the Most Beer

    Beer consumption is falling, according to the Beer Institute, a lobbying group, but which states consume the most beer?  My home state of Maryland doesn’t rank in the top 10, but does your make the grade?

    10. Delaware
    > Per capita consumption: 34.3 gallons
    > Total consumption: 22,592,366 gallons (7th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -2.3% (8th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 20.3% (12th highest)
    > Population density: 465.5/sq. mile (6th highest)

    9. Nebraska
    > Per capita consumption: 34.6 gallons (tied-8th)
    > Total consumption: 44,711,021 gallons (15th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -5.7% (20th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 22.7% (5th highest)
    > Population density: 24.0/sq. mile (8th lowest)

    8. Texas
    > Per capita consumption: 34.6 gallons (tied-8th)
    > Total consumption: 604,956,568 gallons (2nd highest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -9.4% (15th lowest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 18.9% (19th highest)
    > Population density: 98.3/sq. mile (25th lowest)

    7. Vermont
    > Per capita consumption: 34.7 gallons
    > Total consumption: 16,206,397 gallons (3rd lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: 7.1% (the highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 18.5% (24th highest)
    > Population density: 68.0/sq. mile (21st lowest)

    6. Wisconsin
    > Per capita consumption: 36.2 gallons
    > Total consumption: 149,651,260 gallons (12th highest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -6.9% (24th lowest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 24.3% (the highest)
    > Population density: 105.5/sq. mile (24th highest)

    5. Nevada
    > Per capita consumption: 36.5 gallons
    > Total consumption: 70,951,684 gallons (21st lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -17.2% (the lowest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 18.6% (22nd highest)
    > Population density: 24.8/sq. mile (9th lowest)

    4. South Dakota
    > Per capita consumption: 38.0 gallons
    > Total consumption: 22,032,413 gallons (6th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -1.8% (5th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 22.1% (6th highest)
    > Population density: 10.9/sq. mile (5th lowest)

    3. Montana
    > Per capita consumption: 40.6 gallons
    > Total consumption: 29,640,123 gallons (8th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -5.1% (18th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 20.8% (9th highest)
    > Population density: 6.9/sq. mile (3rd lowest)

    2. North Dakota
    > Per capita consumption: 42.2 gallons
    > Total consumption: 20,711,472 gallons (5th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -4.5% (15th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 23.8% (2nd highest)
    > Population density: 9.9/sq. mile (4th lowest)

    1.New Hampshire
    > Per capita consumption: 43.0 gallons
    > Total consumption: 41,994,894 gallons (13th lowest)
    > Pct. change in consumption ’03-’11: -1.8% (6th highest)
    > Pct. binge drinkers: 18.7% (21st highest)
    > Population density: 147.2/sq. mile (21st highest)


    Source:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/11/beer-consumption-top-states/1627621/

  • Pint Craft – The Craft Beer Game on KickStarter

    Playing Pint Craft

    Playing Pint Craft

    We all love games based on drinking, and it looks like Nick Helmholdt of Ann Arbor, MI is trying to make a craft beer game.  The game is card based (check the the official rules in this PDF file) with pints (points) being awarded for various brewing tasks.  The first person to a set amount of points wins the game.   Essentially, you will brew craft beer and expand your brewery to earn victory pints!

    Brewery Cards

    Brewery Cards

    The description from the website for the game is as follows:

    Picture yourself as beer brewer challenged to create distinct and appealing recipes. Pint Craft incorporates elements of resource management and seasonality to generate variety. Creativity on the player’s part ensures that no two games are the same.  No knowledge of brewing is needed to play Pint Craft.


    Your friends loved your latest original home brew recipe and encouraged you to quit your job to brew beer full time. At first you hesitated – how can anyone make a living brewing small batches? Then the right combination of frustration and fortune made this craft beer idea seem like the perfect way to escape your dead end job and ferment some passion into your work! But you’re not alone. Other aspiring brewers want to make their mark, too. In this fast-moving industry you’ll need to expand your operations, brew unique styles, and attract thirsty beer enthusiasts to stay ahead of your competition.


    Beer Style Cards

    Beer Style Cards

    The game looks like a lot of fun, and I’m considering donating to get myself a copy.  You can pre-order Pint Craft starting at the $25 level. The game will be made in the good ole USA, no need to involve China.  If you pledge, you get a copy you can download and start playing right away (printing at Kinkos is suggested).

    The Pint Craft Box

    The Pint Craft Box

    Check out this video demonstration of how the game works:


    Source: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nickhelmholdt/pint-craft?ref=live

  • Yuengling Considers New Brewery Outside Pennsylvania


    Like a lot of independent craft beer companies in America, Yuengling is growing.  Yuengling, now the largest American-owned brewer, says it likely won’t build its next brewery in Pennsylvania for business reasons.  In an interview with company owner and President Dick Yuengling Jr. he stated Yuengling wants to keep growing. Sales could approach 3 million barrels by year’s end.  Like any business contemplating such a move, motivations for leaving Pennsylvania are monetarily based.

    The decision comes down to taxes, incentives and the state’s business climate, Yuengling said.


    In the interview, Yuengling hinted that there are far more business-friendly states.


    And while he didn’t directly criticize any Pennsylvania administration, past or present, he said he can never be certain which way the state is leaning in terms of its tax and business policies.


    By contrast, he said enticing incentives offered by other states might be too good to pass up. However, he declined to cite any states he might be considering for the brewery.


    “Some states are very economically friendly,” Yuengling said. “We don’t necessarily base business decisions on incentives like that. But if they are going to give them to somebody, we would stand there and take them.”


    As for the Keystone State, which remains home to Yuengling’s original, historic Pottsville brewery as well as a second, much larger facility opened nearby in 2002, he said:


    “Pennsylvania is a great location. But it’s not very business-friendly. You look for fair tax breaks, fair taxation. And the bottom line is more jobs. That’s what it’s all about.”


    A new brewery would solve a familiar and recurring problem for the company. Namely, too much demand and too little beer.

    I’m happy to see a good, independent, American owned brewery doing well.  I hope to see more Yuengling in the future!!

    Source: http://www.pennlive.com/

  • Barenaked Ladies Team Up with The Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery

    Pearl Jam did it with Dogfish Head, and it seems it the new thing for bands to do.  Barenaked Ladies have teamed up with Flying Monkeys to create a craft beer.  I’m not really sure why this is happening, but my guess is that it’s nothing more than a cross marketing effort to benefit both parties.

    The project, which saw the band members hang out at the brewery on the Barrie waterfront for a day last week, was the brainchild of Flying Monkeys boss Peter Chiodo.?


    “I was drinking some of the Pearl Jam beer, and they really only put their names on it. I thought it would be a lot cooler if there was something where the band actually came into the brewery and helped make it. It would have more meaning that way,” said Chiodo. (That “Pearl Jam beer” was called Faithful, and was brewed last year by Delaware craft brewery Dogfish to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the band’s groundbreaking debut album Ten).


    Chiodo contacted several Canadian musicians, seeing if they were interested in helping come up with their own beer. The Barenaked Ladies leapt at the chance, said Chiodo.


    During the day at the brewery, drummer Tyler Stewart tweeted a picture of himself holding a mug of cocoa nibs which were then dumped into the brew.


    In a press release, Stewart said he was excited to take part.


    “I worked in the Beer Store when I was younger, but never dreamed I would have my own beer one day,” Stewart said.


    While the band was on hand for the brewing day, and even helped out, Chiodo admits it was his recipe.


    “All they said was that they wanted it to be the kind of beer you could share. I bounced the idea of a chocolate imperial stout off them, and they liked it,” said Chiodo.


    The BNL Strong Beer is definitely something you shouldn’t be polishing off on your own — not only does it come in a 750 mL bottle, Chiodo says it will be 11 per cent alcohol by volume. Then again, at $13.95 a bottle, you might want to be going halfsies on the purchase anyway. Chiodo says the high price for the special suds is warranted.


    “It’s expensive because it costs a lot more to brew than our regular beer. There are about four times as much of each ingredient as there are in our other beers,” he said.

    Source: http://www.thestar.com/

  • Bigger Beer Menus Boost Restaurant Sales



    It seems the a good selection of quality beer can help drive profits.

    According to the Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker, 33 percent of alcohol drinkers who visit restaurants regularly report that they are more likely to order beer when offered a large selection of beer brands.


    A good portion, about 26 percent, also said they are more likely to order more servings of beer with a better beer selection than they would have otherwise.


    According to the study conducted by Consumer Edge Insight, experimentation is a key component behind bigger sales as consumers sample new products or re-visit brands they have not had in a while. Thirty-six percent of consumers say they are more likely to choose a brand they haven’t tried before and 19 percent said they are more likely to order a brand they have not drunk in a long time.


    To those familiar with the beer industry, it will come as no surprise that keeping craft beer drinkers happy will boost the bottom line.


    Those who say they drink craft beers regularly, defined as at least once per week, are more likely to say that a large selection of beer brands leads to higher beer consumption.


    Among craft beer drinkers, 44 percent said a large selection of brands makes them more likely to order beer, and 34 percent said they are more likely to order more servings of beer.


    This point may not be lost on companies such as Darden Restaurants [DRI 57.2766    2.5566  (+4.67%)   ], which recently completed its acquisition of Yard House, a casual dining chain known for its extensive beer selection; or burger chains like Red Robin Gourmet Burgers [RRGB  33.74    0.90  (+2.74%)   ], which recently rolled out a beer milkshake. Even Walt Disney [DIS  53.00    0.34 (+0.65%)   ] recently lifted restrictions on beer and wine sales within the Magic Kingdom, to allow its new Be Our Guest Restaurant to serve beer during dinner service.


    Source: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49106707

  • Budweiser Zip Code Beers

    Budweiser is brewing new beers across the US in its newest endeavor called “Project Twelve”.  Budweiser stated that it would be releasing the first three of these twelve beers next month.  The beers are named for the zip codes in which they were brewed, you know, like a mass murder who gets a number when he goes to jail.

    The first batch of beers are named for zip codes in Los Angeles, CA,  St. Louis, MO, and Williamsburg, VA.  The project started earlier this year when Budweiser asked for 12 recipes from its various brewmasters .  The test recipes went through a testing process including letting the public give their own feedback at beer festivals.  From those available three were chosen to be used in 12 bottle sampler packs.  The samplers will be available starting October 29th.

    So this to me seems like another attempt to get into the craft beer market.  I can find no mention of the style of beer being used, but my guess is these recipes, if they do well, will eventually become part of the flagship line.  Here’s hoping the American public sticks with locally owned and operated breweries instead of going with this mass produced beer.

  • Real Beer Floats Available at Red Robin Restaurant

    Red Robin must have read our Real Beer Float article.  They are now offering a Sam Adams Octoberfest over vanilla ice cream with caramel drizzled on top.  I guess we were a little ahead of the times when we did our beer float reviews about a year ago.

    “Nothing says Oktoberfest better than a beer, so I incorporated the fun spirit of Red Robin into this innovative milkshake,” said Donna Ruch, master mixologist with Red Robin. “Now, our guests don’t have to choose between a beer or a shake to go with their burger. They can have the very best of both in our new Octoberfest Milkshake.”

    So now is your time to try a real beer float.  Head out to Red Robin and drink one down and let us know what you think.