Back in March I decided I wanted to brew myself something special for my birthday in October. I absolutely love barley wines, so I decided I would make Ol’ 76er, a barley wine named after the year I was born… Yeah, I know… I am pretty dang old. This beer was going to have a pretty big alcohol content, so it needed a bunch of yeast. I have never made a beer with this much yeast, and I was in for a surprise!

I made my wort, pitch a boat load of yeast into it, and sealed up my primary fermenter. After that it should have been just a matter of waiting… 7 months of waiting. But things didn’t go quite as smooth as I had expected. The massive amount of yeast going crazy in the fermenter caused a massive blowout! This has never happened to me before. It looked like a grizzly beer murder scene.

I cleaned up the mess and resealed the fermenter just to have krausen coming back through the airlock in a matter of 5 minutes. Ugh! I pulled a bit of a MacGyver and sawed the end of an airlock off so that one end would fit in the lid of the primary and one end would fit in a long tube. I then put the other end of the tube in my brew kettle with a bunch of water to create an airlock on a bigger scale. I know you can buy things like this, but I didn’t have time for a trip to the brewing supply store as I needed to get my beer sealed and hopefully safe again.

Now I am preparing to brew an imperial stout for this year’s Merry Cherry Christmas Stout. I will need to use a bunch of yeast again (although this time I am using a starter. More on that in the next post), but I don’t want the same results as I had with Ol’ 76er.

The answer, as suggested by a staff member at Northern Brewer, Fermcap! Fermcap is an anti-foaming agent that can be added to your brew so that the krausen doesn’t get out of hand. It keeps things nice and calm in the fermenter while not affecting the yeast, fermentation, or flavors. After fermentation is complete it settles to the bottom of the bucket and is left behind when racking the beer to the secondary fermenter. As an added bonus, Fermcap can also be used during the boil to eliminate boil over.

Hopefully my barley wine is still good after being exposed and opened for a bit. It doesn’t look infected. We will find out next month when I drink one. One thing I do know is that this isn’t going to be a problem for the imperial stout I am brewing now!

Anybody have a beer horror story like Ol’ 76er?