A sobering reminder

Last updated 14:42 19/12/2012

Safety is one of those things that can quite quickly go out the window when alcohol is involved. From students playing possum to trying to do drunk what you said you would do sober, booze really does bring out the reckless side in people.

Making it can be just as dangerous. You're dealing with hot water, a bit of heavy lifting (potentially at the same time) and, potentially, exploding materials. While not trying to scare you off brewing, there's some basic safety tips you should probably employ to minimise the chances of either burning, crushing or losing a piece of yourself.

Wear shoes: It's quite simple really, but pretty easy to forget. Especially with the summer we're currently having; it is just so much easier to put on those breezy jandals, or rock it barefoot, than lace up your boots or shoes. But dropping a mash tun full of eight kilos of grain on your toes, spilling boiling water on your ankles or cutting your feet on an accidentally-broken bottle will all quickly put paid to any dreams of a foot modelling career. It'll also bloody hurt. The more frightening for the uninitiated is when you put your cold immersion chiller into boiling wort. The cold water will heat quickly and spit out the open holes. That is not much fun, especially when it hits you square on your toes.

Wear gloves: I worked as a barista for about five years, so I'm lucky enough to have developed ''barista hands''. Put simply, I can handle quite a bit of heat through my hands after constant punishment at the hands of espresso machines. However, not everyone is quite as lucky as I. Pipes, hoses and handles can all get very hot over the course of a day. Spoons left on top of boiling wort will heat up. Immersion chillers will get warm. Take care of your hands - you've only got two of them.

Glass: Glass breaks. Broken glass can cut you - quite badly, in fact. So avoid it as much as possible. I know plenty of people like fermenting in glass carboys. They're just a bit cooler; you can see your yeast flying around in them, gobbling up the sugars to make CO2 and alcohol. I, myself, avoid them like the plague. A small slip while carrying one and you can fill yourself full of glass in no time. Severed tendons, lots of stiches and weeks of physio will be next. If you've got the stomach for it, throw ''carboy accidents'' into Google Images sometime. You have been warned.

Glass bottles are another issue. If your beer hasn't fully fermented when you bottle it, you could end up with a garage full of shrapnel. Not cool, especially if it happens while you're in there. Also, be careful when cleaning bottles. I've had the bottom pop off plenty of mine while giving them a thorough scrubbing. Once again, some gloves will help if anything breaks.

Heavy lifting: I constantly have to carry around 20kg or more at a time. To keep this short - don't do any of it while you've got wet hands. Crushed toes are not much fun, and no one wants you to cry over spilt beer.

Booze: Brewing is fun, and I'm all for enjoying a drink, but there is a lot of temptation involved in home brewing. You're figuring out recipes for booze, reading books about booze, talking to other brewers about booze and tasting various kinds of booze. After a few months of brewing - depending on frequency - you'll have quite a stash going on. 

Alcohol can cause a lot of problems: arguments, laziness, fist-fights, lack of concentration and plenty more. Drinking too much can affect your health, and has addictive tendencies. I don't know many, if any, people who have become alcoholics but this piece is a sobering reminder of just what can happen to people who get addicted to alcohol.

If you think you have a problem, you probably have a problem. Get help. Call the local AA. You should also stop reading this blog; I write about alcohol, so keep well away from anything here. But most importantly, get rid of any alcohol products you have. If you brew, that includes your brewing gear and your home brew. I don't care if it cost you $100 or $10,000. Because, while brewing is fun, it's just not worth killing yourself over.

- (Live Matches)

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