Matt Potter 7:27 a.m., May 22
Boom! An explosion rocks the night and awakens me shortly after falling into a deep sleep. My family whom is visiting from out of town is also jolted awake from the sudden blast. We rise and make our way into the kitchen to see that the top cupboard has been blasted open, shrapnel of glass is littering the floor and my precious home-brewed IPA is dripping down onto my counter top. What a disaster. Hopefully, no more of my heavily hopped, 22oz bottles of liquid goodness will fall victim to the random bottle bomb. Most home brewers are aware of the possibility of exploding bottles which can be brought on by a number of issues: bacteria inside the bottles due to insufficient sanitizing, over-carbonation, and high temperatures. This can lead to pressure building to the point that the thick glass cannot contain the reaction, resulting in a powerful explosion. Beware! Brewing is fun, challenging, and rewarding, however, it can be dangerous, so brew at your own risk.
A day passes and I'm now standing on a ladder cleaning the remnants of the previous evening’s mess. I stand face to bottle with these exploding beasts, and ask them why they would betray me like this. I boiled you and fed you delicious pungent hops and beautiful yeast that you ate, farted out and created alcohol. I transformed you from a malty based mixture of sugar and water, gave you life and turned you into beer, and now you repay me by exploding? How dare you! As I reach down to grab another rag, BOOM! Another explosion rocks the cupboard overhead. The golden ale again falls from above, flooding down like Niagara Falls onto my counter top. My thoughts quickly shift from, "oh no, not another one," to "uh oh, there goes another one." At this point, my entire family (made up of Mom, Dad, sister and nephew) have entered the kitchen concerned and frightened at the thought of another one exploding. I close the cupboard, step back and stare at the liquid that continues to drip. BOOM! Another one explodes and rocks the inside of the cupboard again. We're now at war with about twenty 22oz bottles of beer.
"I got to get rid of them," I say, as I step into the war zone. My family strongly objects to this decision, fearing a bottle will explode in my face, rip through an eyeball or slice through my jugular. A little bit of overreaction? Possibly. For me, I'm facing a couple of dozen bottles of beer, but to them, I'm facing death! "You are not going up there. It's too dangerous," they say. "It's not like they're grenades," I respond. This back and forth bantering continues for fifteen minutes before I come up with a "solution." It's simple, I'll just wrap myself in a couple of sweatshirts, tie a towel around my neck, put on some sunglasses and snow gloves, (just to put my family at ease) and remove the bottles one by one and throw them all away. Done. That's easy, right? Wrong! "It's too dangerous," they say. "I think we need to call the fire department to come get rid of them." "The fire department? What are you, nuts?" is my first response. I just moved into this new place and the last thing I need is for the OB Fire Department showing up at my door to remove bottles of beer from my place. My neighbors will immediately think I've gone completely off of the deep end. "There's no way I'm calling them. That's beyond crazy." I say over and over. After a twenty minute stalemate, I finally give in. I understand that they're concerned and mean well, so I suck up my pride and make the one mile journey down to the Fire Department.
I approach the side entrance, take a deep breath (laughing to myself at this point at the ridiculousness of the situation, and how this may be the silliest thing I've ever done). I knock a couple of times, and the door opens. "What can I help you with?" he asks. "Okay. This is going to sound completely bizarre, but I've got a bit of a situation." I go on to describe the circumstances, my family's concerns, and kindly ask if they can come remove the bottles. Our thought is that they will at least have face shields and thick suits, so if another one explodes they will be safe. "Well, we've never encountered a situation like this, but I'll send the guys out."
Ten minutes later they arrive, blowing the air horn to let me and anyone else within a three block radius know of their arrival. I head out to meet them and again explain what’s happening. Now that everyone is briefed, they enter the snakes den. After a minute or so in my kitchen, they inform me that they will not remove the bottles, and instead advise me to lock the cupboard "for a couple of weeks," and then remove them. "Can't you just remove them for us?" we ask. "It's too dangerous." "Yeah, but don't you have shields and big thick jackets that will protect you?" I mean, this is the Fire Department that will run into burning buildings, is it not? We respect them, and are grateful for everything they do, but it's a little baffling to us that they will run into a fire but run from a bottle of beer. "We don't want to get hurt either. Do you want us to get hurt?" they tell us. We explain to them that this is the last thing we want, and that my family is concerned and doesn't feel safe. To no avail, they pack back into their fire truck and return to the station.
They've now left and my parents again express their concerns to me and decide to go down to the Fire Department themselves to plea their case. Once at the station, they receive the same response I had. "Do you want us to get hurt?" and after fifteen minutes of my parents pleading with them to help us with this issue, they are turned away and told that they would not be coming back. Shocked and bewildered, my parents return back to my place without any help.
It has come down to the fact that we are alone in this battle. Backup will not be arriving, and we are faced with the duty of ending the terror brought on by barley, hops, and the beautiful golden amber India Pale Ale. The evening is spent brainstorming. We have a plethora of ideas on how to remove the bottle bombs: take a baseball bat to them, create a funnel so that we could slide them down into a giant trash can, remove the entire cabinet, etc. We conclude that our best chance is to let them sit overnight, with the hope that the cool night air will help relieve some of the pressure from inside the bottles. Hopefully morning will be the best time for complete destruction.
7:00am: I awake with a fire burning in my belly, determined to destroy the Frankenstein I had created. Hours of sweating over a boiling kettle, precise measurements, weeks of constant temperature control, a secondary fermentation process and an extra dose of hops all went into creating this monster, so killing it was very bitter-sweet. No longer could I put my family in danger. I was determined to end this once and for all, and exterminate the ale that haunted us the last couple of nights. I was to take on this golden amber beast that stood eleven inches tall and weighed 22oz; an enemy that was too powerful for professionals, too deadly for OB's finest, and yet so delicate that the piney and citrus notes would dance on ones taste buds, assault the senses and take a person to liquid heaven. The time had come. It was time to end the life of this living yeast.
It’s back to plan A, so I dig deep into my winter clothing on this 80 degree day and pull out a fleece to wear under a thick, hooded wool sweatshirt. My neck is now wrapped in a large towel to protect the ever important jugular as I slide on two pairs of winter gloves. As I struggle to pull on the second pair over the other, I can’t help but hear the ghost of Johnny Cochran, "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
By this time I’m well armored and equipped with a newly purchased 45 gallon trash can, which we have rigged with a funnel made of cardboard which allows the bottles to slide easily into the can. The plan is to use a broom, swiftly sweep them down the funnel and safely into the trash bin. What a stupid idea. This didn't work at all. It’s now back to the most common sense plan: grab each bottle one by one and toss them into the can. My sister helps stabilize the device, (she’s wrapped of course in a thick carpet to protect herself) as I softly place the bottles into their final resting place. Each time I reach into the belly of the beast, I feel as though I’m reaching directly into a deadly rattlesnake den. Any minute one could strike. The room is silent besides the beating of my heart and the clanking of the bottles. Shards of glass fall, and as the final one is placed into the bin, I feel a sense relief, and already I find myself reliving this silly and incredibly ridiculous scenario. Our mission has been accomplished. We had won the fight against the ever so dangerous bottles of beer.
If only I had one...just one beautifully, hand-crafted, home-brewed India Pale Ale to celebrate this triumph. If only.