Craft brewers are once again questioning the safety of plastic kegs after new reports of a keg explosion surfaced this week on an industry forum.
On Tuesday, the Brewers Association (BA) — which moderates the forum — posted an anonymous note from a craft brewery which claimed to have recently experienced what was described as an “explosive failure” of a plastic keg manufactured by Plastic Kegs America (PKA). BA leadership normally does not allow communication on the forum from unidentified members, but made an exception in this case, calling the ongoing plastic keg failures a “serious safety situation.”
In the anonymous post, the brewery described the plastic keg failure multiple times as an explosion, a term that was used to describe similar incidents at Redhook Brewery, Marble Brewery and Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. in 2012. Equipment manufactured by PKA was involved in all three incidents, including the explosion at Redhook which resulted in the death of brewery employee Ben Harris.
Chris Bramon, a founding partner of The Brew Stooges in Huntsville, Al. responded to the BA Forum post and told Brewbound.com in a phone interview that he too had experienced a keg explosion.
“I heard snapping and popping and was covered in beer,” he said, explaining how one of the lower seams on the keg exploded when internal pressure reached under just 33 pounds per square inch.
PKA claims its plastic kegs are able to withstand 90 PSI.
John Bryant, the co-owner of No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane, Wash. said that he also has concerns with the safety of plastic kegs and is currently conducting research to determine if his brewery will continue to use the package.
“We had an experience in the past where a plastic keg malfunctioned and it was enough to take another look at the situation,” he said. “We are doing more research but trying to be respectful of the plastic keg supplier and the industry. We just don’t know enough and we have decided to stop using them until we know more.”
Last year, Jeff Gunn, the president of IDD Process & Packaging — a leading supplier of Sankey Keg packaging sustems — told Brewbound.com that he believed plastic kegs were “totally unreliable” because they are prone to burst at unpredictable pressures.
PKA could not be immediately reached for comment, but founder Simon Wheaton told Brewbound.com last year that he believed his products were safe.
The BA said it has not reached any final conclusions regarding plastic keg safety but has retained the assistance of experts to help provide input and create performance and safety guidelines.