Bottle Rocket

By , July 9, 2012

Our first batch of rhubarb soda tasted great, and had plenty of carbonation—too much carbonation, as it turned out.

We’re careful to use sturdy bottles in all our brewing, so I hadn’t worried much about explosions, even though the first bottle of soda needed to be opened very slowly. The second one required about 40 minutes of judicious “bleeding” to allow enough excess carbonation to escape that it didn’t take the whole bottle of liquid in a foamy rush. Even so, we took a bottle into town to share with friends on the 4th of July, and shared another one with friends here at home.

Unfortunately, I forgot that we had a third bottle of that batch hidden away in the root cellar.

broken bottle

The larger remains of my favorite bottle. The plastic stopper impacted with enough force to break it into several pieces, one of which remained lodged in the bottle’s mouth (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Sunday we opened a gallon jug of newer soda that had been given about half the yeast mixture of the first batch. We found it to be pleasantly bubbly, but not as overbearing as the last batch. As we sat down to lunch, I reached for the jug again, when Aly reminded me about the last bottle of the old batch in the root cellar. I went out to get it, but found the inner door of the cellar jammed by something. That turned out to be a bottle neck. I went back to the house for heavy gloves, a headlamp, and a pair of safety goggles.

To the best of my forensic abilities, this is what happened:

The last bottle of rhubarb soda blew. Judging from the mostly whole bottom of the bottle sitting where it had been placed in a plastic wash tub, the thing launched, shooting the rest of the container up into the cement ceiling of the cellar, where it shattered on impact, raining shards of glass throughout the space. Bottle rocket, indeed!

I acted quickly to save a batch of root beer that had been made at the same time, at about the same yeast strength. I got a bucket of sea water and immersed all the bottles in it to cool them, then bled each of them to release the pressure. Then I rinsed them all off and left them in the sea water tub.

After that, I collected every piece of glass I could find in the cellar, from the floor, the rock shelves on the wall, from the bins of food, even the tiny shards suspended in spider webs near the door. Most will go to the glass recycling bin in town, although Aly has saved some of the thicker pieces to knap into tools using primitive methods.

The really sad thing about this incident is the bottle we lost. It’s a 1 liter bottle from Haines Brewing Company, a beautiful brown baled bottle with the brewery’s label printed on the glass. I’m not sure, but I don’t think you can get these anymore—they may have gone exclusively to growlers. This bottle was a prized possession, but it made sense to continue using it. Now it’s gone!

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