I recently wrote about my Evergreen IIPA. It was a good recipe that turned out be a good beer when fresh, but eventually became over carbonated. What I didn’t mention, though was that I actually brewed it twice. Over carbonation was not the first problem I encountered.
I brewed the very expensive recipe about a month earlier. After chilling the wort and transferring it into a glass carboy, I was picking up the carboy to take it inside and pitch the yeast. The carboy was wet with some wort from the transfer. It was heavy and it was slippery. I started to lose my grip as I was picking it up and tried to sit it back down before I lost complete control, but it was not good enough.
The full carboy hit the cement floor of my back porch on the bottom corner and shattered. It was not a long drop and it wasn’t even completely out of control, I definitely slowed it down and I was shocked when it exploded. There was glass and wort everywhere. At least it was outside. And at least I hadn’t pitched the yeast yet, I guess.
I immediately started cleaning up, placing the biggest pieces of glass in a box before sweeping the rest up to join them. Once I had most of the glass, I started hosing down the porch. I spent a long time sweeping, spraying, moving all of the furniture, et cetera, and I was still finding glass and sticky spots for months afterwards.
It took a long time of frantic cleaning to realize that I was bleeding. My hand was cut all cut up, nothing too deep or serious, but a series of gashes all down the one side. The placement, along the side with lots of wrinkles from joints, meant that it took forever to heal, getting ripped half open every time I made a fist.
I moved all of my primary fermentation to plastic after this ordeal. I had gotten into the habit of using glass carboys for primary because that is what my blow off tube fit in. Bigger beers blowing the tops off, or at least filling the airlock had become an issue. Eventually, I just moved to bigger plastic carboys for primary. The extra headspace is usually enough to prevent any blow off issues. All of the CO2 coming off the fermentation keeps oxidation from becoming an a problem. If I feel the need to open it up and take a sample, I’m sure to rack the beer off into a smaller container afterwards.
I had two glass carboys when this happened. I didn’t use the surviving one at all for a while, but I’ve brought it back into rotation. I no longer moved it up or down the stairs while full, and as I said, I never use it for primary. Brew day is messy, I don’t take the chance of filling it with anything but a siphon to keep it neat.
I mainly use it for stuff that is going to be aging for a long period of time in the basement. The Wyld Cyser was in it all Winter, Spring and Summer until I bottled it recently. I haven’t put anything else into since, but I will likely use it for lagering in the basement this Winter.
If I were starting out now, I would skip the glass. I will continue to use the one carboy I have, with these new guidelines in mind, but I would happily trade it for a plastic one. I wouldn’t necessarily tell all new homebrewers to avoid glass, but you definitely need to seriously consider the dangers of lugging around five gallons of liquid in a giant glass jar.
Obviously, I don’t have any of this original batch of Evergreen around. I do have some of the second batch, which was quite good when it was very fresh. It is way past its prime, but I will do tasting notes on it later this week.