I went over to Heather's place on Sunday, to return her mop. She lives with her Sigificant Other, Luke; and their dog, Boni, on the other side of the railway line from me, about a kilometre away.|
Heather was a bit tired out, having swum to Rottnest the previous day. (For non-Perth people, Rottnest is an island about 20km off the coast from Perth, which makes it just dimly visible on the horizon. It's heavily populated with Quokkas, which are a rabbit-sized marsupial; which is why a passing Dutch explorer christened it "Rat's Nest".) There's an annual swim, involving teams of four swimmers, each of whom (nominally) swim a quarter of the way. Luke had acted as support by paddling on a wave ski.)
When I turned up, Luke didn't quite know what to do, so he cooked me lunch. Luke is a chef, and so his instinct in any complex situation is to cook a meal for everyone, and take it from there. Then we sat around and watched the remainder of a movie they were already 30 minutes into. ("Frequency"; not too bad.) And then we decided that we should do something about the magical exploding beer.
Heather and Luke are quite keen on brewing, and indeed have a number of brews on the go at any one time, in a dedicated shed. It seems that a recent effort, named Highland Brew, had taken to exploding. The beer is fermented in bottles, and during the fermentation process, yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide later gives the beer its foam. Except in this case, of course, in which the CO2 pressure built up until the bottles exploded.
At this particular point in the proceedings, seven of the twenty-odd bottles in the batch had already managed to pop themselves, and we decided that we should relieve the pressure on the surviving bottles. Heather ventured into the shed, its floor covered in glass shards, and carefully brought out the remaining stock. I wrapped a tea-towel around the neck of each bottle in turn, and gently lifted each cap until gas hissed out. Each bottle had an air space at the top taking up about 5% of the volume of the bottle and I, Mr Smarty Pants, reasoned that if I slightly lifted the cap to let this escape, and then released the force I was putting on the cap, thus restoring the seal, that I would decrease the pressure in each bottle by about 5%, and this would prevent them from exploding while we figured out our next step.
Wrong. Heather brushed by a bottle on her way out of the shed, and gave it just the gentlest of unintentional nudges with her foot. The bottle burst. It didn't just pop off its cap or blow off the neck; it shattered, throwing substantial shards over four metres. Standing about two metres away, I caught a tiny shard in one finger. It was so small that it was barely visible to the naked eye, and had it missed me it would have landed in the grass and lain there undetected (as many of its compatriots doubtless did). I only noticed it because of the insistence of a single nerve ending in my finger, shouting, "Hey, you bastard! Pain!".
Heather, quite implausibly, was unscathed.
We elected to let off all of the remaining pressure from all the remaining bottles. Luke, usually Captain Reckless, fetched safety goggles from the other shed; and he repeated my tea-towel trick, but lifted the caps a little further, converting each bottle into a brown fountain with highly pressurised beer jetting out from under the cap and down the sides of the bottle. Each bottle blew off about 50% of its contents.
Then it remained to clean out the shed. We ferried milk crates full of beer bottles out onto the lawn (Ah, milk crates! Cornerstone of modern cottage industry!), and Heather hosed and swept out all the broken glass. It was quite challenging to keep Boni out of the way during all of this -- she kept wanting to go into the shed to see what all the fun was about, and we kept having to shout at her, lest she slash her feet up on the glass.
Luke demonstrated one way to distract her: set the garden hose to a jet, and play it past her. Boni vigorously attacked the jet of water, leaping into its path. She then gave a sort of combination cough and sneeze, and leaped again. She is a Jack Russell, and seems like a perpetual motion machine, with unlimited reserves of energy. I therefore conceived an e-business plan based on this: a web cam, hooked to a computer controlled turret that runs the hose. People could log into the site from all over the world, and play the hose at Boni.
We poured the surviving Highland Brew into a cask for later rebottling, returned the crates of beer to the shed (after taking the opportunity to extract remaining bottles of some quite undesirable brews, and empty them over the veggie patch), rinsed various bottles and casks, and called it a day.