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More Rumors Get Put to Bed: Exploding Beers, Taproom Bans, and Plastic Buckets

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All it takes is one little rumor, and the trolls come out of from under their bridges. It’s quite the phenomenon, actually, but the end result is one where nobody wins.

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It all began last Sunday on What’s on Tap Radio.

Our friends James Simpson and Chad Pilbeam shared a story about a brewery in Houston that has recently experienced some exploding cans. Pretty benign story, and James Simpson and Chad Pilbeam were kind enough to spare the name of the brewery, but it kind of spiraled from there.

Everything that What’s on Tap Radio said about the beer exploding is 100% true. We can’t even blame them because it’s journalism! However, in the name of humor, their good reporting contained a hint of a rumor, and that’s how things began spiraling.

Those rhymes though… But I digress.

You see, the rumor mill churns and turns. As momentum grows, it moves quickly and what it spits out moves farther. It’s like compound interest and finance, except it moves in the opposite direction. Every time something is added and somebody hops on, it goes faster and faster. Eventually, other new rumors fly off as it spins out of control.

We love Chad Pilbeam and James Simpson, we love What’s on Tap Radio, we love the brewers and owners that they interview, and most of all, we love setting the record straight.

We reached out to the head brewers and owners of a couple of breweries to get their take on how these rumors grew and spread. What follows is a list of information that has been spread online in the last few days, a list of facts to address it, and a few closing thoughts and quotes from the brewers and owners affected.

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The information and the facts

1. An unnamed brewery had exploding cans of beer. They were threatening to ban people from the taproom for life for complaining about the beer. Apparently there is a list of people that are banned from the taproom, and Chad Pillbeam is on the list.

Half true.

The brewery in question did have some cans explode. They admitted fault and offered to refund/exchange anybody that didn’t want the beer as long as they followed the proper process. They’ve added a bold note to the label of today’s beers to prevent any further issues as well as made some adjustments to the canning process.

Additionally, they have not banned anybody from their taproom. Not now, not ever. At least not yet! There is one person in their three-plus-year history that they have refused to serve, but the issue with that person is separate from this issue despite being recent, according to them.

2. The brewery in question is Ingenious Brewery. They have contamination issues because they ferment in plastic tubs and add as much as 30% extracts and adjuncts, so of course, their beers explode.

False.

Ingenious has only ever had one issue with exploding cans, and they offered refund/exchange to anybody that wanted to return the beer. They maintain that policy to this day. They also don’t ferment in plastic home brewing equipment. They have nothing but stainless, and their cold side includes three of each, 5BBLs, 10BBLs, and 30BBLs for a total of 9 stainless fermentors. Luckily for all of us, Ingenious’ head brewer James Carlyle will be on this Sunday’s episode of WOTR to explain how they’ve handled shade and criticism in the past.

Aside from Ingenious, B52’s name was thrown around in some other conversations about the exploding cans and taproom banning, but it was none of the above. Baa Baa Brewhouse of Brookshire Texas has been experimenting recently with Fruit Ninjas – Fruit Smoothie Style Kettle Sour IPAs, and their creativity has been largely well-accepted. In fact, 6 of 10 of their highest rated beers on Untappd are from their new Fruit Ninja series. People have been getting them delivered to their doors on Hop Drop and saving 10% with code BEERCHRONICLE.

The pioneers of NEIPA in Houston, Baa Baa is no stranger to pushing the boundaries for what Houston beer, and even Texas beer, can be. If you’ve drank a hazy IPA on draft in Houston any time in the last month, you have these great folks to thank for answering Larry Koestler’s call years ago.

Kinga explained, “We’re trying to create something that nobody in Houston has done before. B52 has their Imperial Fruit Sours, and we wanted to try out something of our own with a ton of fruit. Something like The Answer or 450 [North]. The cans say to keep them cold.”

In response to the inconsistencies in some of the cans, Baa Baa sent an email to their customers to help them navigate a smooth return. Below is the email that Kinga forwarded to us.

We advertised the beer as very thick and dark purple, 95% was.  There is a video of Blade being canned on our Facebook page. 

Customers were expecting thick smoothie beer based on that video and a small portion of the cans were pink and thin. It was our mistake. We owned up to it and we applied changes and procedures so that won’t happen again. 

We issued a statement on our Facebook page and Instagram saying that those who happened to purchase FN [Fruit Ninja] that were not as advertised can send us an email for a solution.

In general our policy is that if anyone is unhappy with products we release we are happy to accept the claim and find a solution. Our goal is that Baa Baa customers have positive experience at our brewery and are satisfied with the product they choose to purchase. 

This is the email:
Thank you for your email.  This was the first time we have canned Fruit Ninja and we are working to improve consistency and any other potential issues in the future.

We would like to offer a full refund or voucher for 2 crowlers of your choice per 4 pack purchased. 

If you choose refund, we need your name as it appears on the card and 4 last digits from the card used to purchase Fruit Ninja 4-Packs to locate your transaction. 

If you choose a voucher, please reply to this email providing following details:
-Full name
-Number of 4 packs purchased
-How many cans were not as advertised or caused an issue. 
Thank you for continued support.

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Screenshot of the email for reference.
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Exploding Cans are soooo Last Year

The issue with exploding cans is not new. Any breweries that make hype beer include a note on their labels that says “Live beer. Keep cold. Drink fresh” or something to that effect.

While it’s easy to say that reading is fundamental and pass the exploding cans off as irresponsible or uneducated consumers, Baa Baa is the first to do these heavily fruited beers in the Houston area, so maybe there is some info that needs to be shared.

Not everybody that drinks beer is as nerdy as we are, and even fewer have tried their hands at brewing a batch of their own, so maybe they simply don’t know?

Brewing 101 says that you cook grains in water to make sugar water. Then you add yeast to that sugar water. The yeast eats the sugar, and the byproduct of that sugar-water meal is alcohol and Co2. Add hops and other stuff like fruit, spices, or cupcakes at some point to help create the flavors you’re after, and bingo, you made beer.

When the beer is heavily fruited, there are residual sugars in the can just by nature of the beer. Fruit has sugar in it, right?

When it’s a yeast-driven Beer like a NEIPA, there’s still leftover yeast that’s suspended in the beer.

When it stays cold, ale yeast stays dormant, so nothing happens other than flavor and sweetness. But if it goes above ~65 (depending on the exact yeast), the yeast wakes up. It’s hungry. It eats the residual sugars. The byproduct is Co2 and alcohol, and that extra Co2 eventually has to go somewhere.

Boom. Literal fruit bomb. Can explodes as additional Co2 is produced in the can.

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Replies From the Brewers and Owners

Kinga and Marcus elaborated on the matter, “We’ve never participated in the bashing of any breweries online. We’re in some of the Facebook groups, but even when people post negative things about our beer, we never, E V E R, say anything. Why would we ban people? That doesn’t even make sense.”

As for the actual list of folks banned from Baa Baa’s taproom, we’ve never heard of anything like that. Neither have Baa Baa’s owners Marcus and Kinga, “We don’t know about any list. If you uncover it, we would love to see it 😂😂”

It’s one thing to not like a beer, to not like a brewery, or even to not like a specific style. In a Venn Diagram of those three, I fall right in the middle of all the circles with my hand proudly raised. But I’d never go online and spread lies about them simply because I didn’t like them.

I HATED Tallgrass’ Half Pipe Sour Pale Ale. Ironically, so did James Simpson of What’s on Tap Radio. I didn’t like a single beer I had from Rabbit Hole Brewing, and I’m typically not a fan of gloopy, jammy, heavily-fruited beers (along with a list of other styles like Rauchbiers and Belgian Tripels). But you’ve never heard me badmouth any of the breweries that make them.

If you have a problem with a beer, bring it up to staff at the brewery. If you spent your hard-earned money there, they’ll (more than likely) gladly refund it because they’re more interested in you having a good experience than they are in your few dollars. Both Justin Gyorfi and James Carlyle of Ingenious weighed in heavily on this.

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James Carlyle ranted, “Man, we make a good amount of money on those can release days. If somebody’s not happy with the beer, that’s fine. Even if we know it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, we’d rather take care of them than be right.”

Justin Gyorfi echoed, “Craft beer drinkers are, by nature, very opinionated. If they weren’t, they’d be drinking the BMC that everybody else drinks. That means we have to deal with the harsh criticisms of opinionated people from time to time. So be it. But I’m not going to argue with somebody over what they think a beer should be vs what we think. I just want them to enjoy themselves.”

Justin was so pissed at Ingenious’ name being dragged through the mud that he made an account on Reddit simply to reply and rectify the libel. While we talked, he expressed some guilt about how he wrote his replies. “I was so mad, dude. I wish I didn’t write that the way I wrote it. I could’ve been a lot more customer service oriented. I was just so mad at people spreading rumors and lies. We just want to make beer that puts Houston on the map and makes Texas proud.”

We spoke on the phone with Marcus and Kinga Wunderle of Baa Baa Brewhouse, Justin Gyorfi and James Carlyle of Ingenious, and had a call scheduled with Marin Slanina of B52, but she was unable to comment.

Hopefully you can see how rumors can be problematic when there are real-life implications for the subjects of the rumors. The moms and dads, the small business owners, and those risking their life savings to give us something creative to drink every weekend. It’s just beer, right? That’s easy to say when it’s just in our fridges. ‘It’s just beer’ becomes a little harder to swallow when it’s what puts food on people’s tables. This is supposed to be fun! Why are some people so hellbent on being assholes?

In the grand scheme of things, this could’ve been far worse. This will all blow over eventually, and there’ll probably be another 2-3 breweries in Houston that have exploding cans full of super-fruity beer by river-floating season in 2020.

Let’s be clear here, exploding beer isn’t ok. Putting out a subpar product and knowing it’s subpar isn’t ok. But making a mistake, owning it, and offering to fix it… that’s ok. Especially if it’s in the name of creativity and pushing the boundaries. Whether I like the beer or not.

Tune into What’s on Tap Radio this Sunday from 3-5pm on 950 KPRC to hear the next chapter of this story, as Ingenious’ James Carlyle will be on. And tune in again next Sunday for a reply from Baa Baa’s Marcus Wunderle about this mess.

Beers to you, Houston.

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Anthony Gorrity
tony.d@beerchronicle.com

Anthony's a Houston native, a graphic designer, and a UH Coog that loves good beer almost as much as he does his city. He's an ex-oilfield guy that spends is days pushing pixels for us, breweries, churches, and one of Houston's fastest-growing companies. Fueled by sessionable IPAs and gangster rap, he's ticked his way through H-Town, rocking nothing but the dopest on-sale Nikes he can find. When he's not writing for us, he's with his family or rooting for the Rockets.

2 Comments
  • Travis Combel
    Posted at 08:56h, 16 November

    I’ll address the publicly posted fallacy here. The return policy on the beer was only for consistency.

    https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2865296023482863&id=1172804926065323

    Additionally, You can’t possibly return a beer that has exploded as a sealed can as is stated in your article.

    As for the banned people, yes there are/were. Not posted publicly evidently.

  • Tony D
    Posted at 13:18h, 16 November

    Hey Travis! Thanks for the assist with clearing all this up. I’m quoting what they said on the phone last night, and below is copy/paste from an email they sent to customers with any complaints. I’ll add it to the article above.

    We advertised the beer as very thick and dark purple, 95% was. There is a video of Blade being canned on our Facebook page.

    Customers were expecting thick smoothie beer based on that video and a small portion of the cans were pink and thin. It was our mistake. We owned up to it and we applied changes and procedures so that won’t happen again.

    We issued a statement on our Facebook page and Instagram saying that those who happened to purchase FN that were not as advertised can send us an email for a solution.

    In general our policy is that if anyone is unhappy with products we release we are happy to accept the claim and find a solution. Our goal is that Baa Baa customers have positive experience at our brewery and are satisfied with the product they choose to purchase.

    This is the email:

    Thank you for your email. This was the first time we have canned Fruit Ninja and we are working to improve consistency and any other potential issues in the future.

    We would like to offer a full refund or voucher for 2 crowlers of your choice per 4 pack purchased.

    If you choose refund, we need your name as it appears on the card and 4 last digits from the card used to purchase Fruit Ninja 4-Packs to locate your transaction.

    If you choose a voucher, please reply to this email providing following details:

    -Full name

    -Number of 4 packs purchased

    -How many cans were not as advertised or caused an issue.

    Thank you for continued support.

    As for the banned person* we were told by Marcus and Kinga that there is only one person that has been refused service, and that information is not necessarily private. We’ve been sent a few screenshots of emails and Facebook conversations around that person. The heart of the statement is that they’re not just running around banning thumb-thugs at will.

    Again, thanks for your time to help clear this up and for your comment! We need all the help we can get with running this site!

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