My homebrewing misadventures

Hard lessons

How to kill a keg (and a CO2 cylinder) in 15 minutes

After two months of cleaning, sanitizing, brewing, fermenting, sanitizing, kegging, carbonating and chilling, I was finally ready to have a taste of the American Wheat. It was approaching 90 degrees and sunny, a perfect day for a crisp, refreshing wheat ale.

I had been working on this new chest freezer kegerator for months, and I was eager to tap the first beer of the summer to course through the tubing and taps I assembled with my own two hands. So this afternoon, while we had a few friends and neighbors over for a brunch in the backyard, I thought the timing was perfect to tap the American Wheat.

I poured myself a pint. It was cool and delicious with the perfect head. I was feeling right pleased with myself. So I drew a few glasses for our guests and served them. Everyone ooh'ed and aah'ed and complimented the brewer. I was looking forward to having this beer on tap for the next few weeks of summer cookouts and relaxation.

About 10 or 15 minutes later, I thought I'd go back downstairs and throw the keg of Czech Pilsner into the kegerator to begin force-carbonating it. As I lifted the lid on the fridge, I heard an odd hissing noise, and I peered in to see this:

What three gallons of American Wheat looks like on the bottom of a kegerator. From Carboy

It took me a moment to process the picture in front of me. At first, I thought maybe just a little bit of beer had spilled out somehow, until I looked closer. It was about an inch-and-a-half deep. This wasn't just a bit of beer. It was all of the beer.

This was easily my worst day as a brewer, ever. Worse even than the time I had two bombers of chocolate maple porter explode in my closet, and I had to dump the rest of the batch untasted. I was beside myself.

After some investigation, it appeared that the nut that attached the tubing for the tap to the disconnect on the keg had come loose. So CO2 was rushing into the keg and forcing all of the beer out of the small gap. Three gallons of fresh, hand-crafted wheat beer was pooled on the floor of the kegerator. To add insult to injury, this very fast leak also emptied my 5-lb. CO2 tank. My kingdom for a really long straw.

I sucked all of the beer up with a shop vac. Two months of work and three gallons of beer literally down the drain. This was a simple lesson learned in one of the most heartbreaking ways: Always, always, always make sure your couplings are tight before you turn on the gas. If you don't, that sweet taste of a successful new brew will be very fleeting indeed.

The first pint of American Wheat from the kegerator. One of only five glasses to be poured.
From Carboy

By Tom on 07/25/2015

Stage: Thirsty

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