There are few things more refreshing on a warm day than a cold beer. And the craft brewing industry is exploding all over the country. More than 6,000 creative local brewers are racing to release enough specialty beers to please every kind of craft connoisseur.
Fruited beers, or those brewed with real fruit, have long been a popular choice, but the latest trend seems to be moving toward brews that contain just as much fruit as they do traditional ale.
Unfortunately, the past few years have also seen an increasing amount of fruit beers exploding out of their cans and bottles. Why is this happening, and how likely is it to happen to you?
Why is Bottled Fruit Beer Exploding?
Fruit can be added to beer at any stage of brewing and in many forms, from fresh, to frozen or preserved, to flavoring. Any brewing process includes fermentation; that’s when the yeast converts sugar into alcohol, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). The large vats beer is brewed in allow the CO2 to escape, avoiding a pressure build-up.
Fruit is usually added to the beer during the fermentation process so the yeast can consume the sugar in the fruit. Lately, however, brewers have been adding the fruit after fermentation is complete to maximize flavor. These beers may taste better, but they also risk refermentation.
Refermentation happens when the yeast and microbes in the beer keep processing sugar while in its final packaging (can, bottle, etc.). This releases more CO2 than usual.
When a beer, or any carbonated drink, starts to warm up, its CO2 separates from the liquid and migrates to the top of the can, increasing the pressure and making the can prone to explosion. This happens with fruited beer more than others due to its combination of fermentable sugar and active yeast.
Can Beer Bottle Explosions Be Prevented?
There are many ways to lower the risk of exploding fruit beers. Popular craft beer blogger Craft Beer Joe recommends consumers take these steps to enjoy their fruit beers safely:
- Keep beer cold at all times to prevent yeast activity
- Drink as soon as possible
- Be mindful of brewer’s instructions/warnings
- Educate yourself on fruit beer styles
- Ask brewery staff about any concerns
Responsible fruit beer brewers will include adequate warnings on their packaging and do as much as they can to prevent explosions in the first place. They can add fruit about 75% into the brewing process rather than after its completion and give the sugars up to six months to ferment. They can also filter out yeast just before canning using various methods. If filtration isn’t possible because certain ales need yeast in the flavor, the beer can be pasteurized by submerging fresh cans in hot water.
While both brewers and buyers can do things to help keep fruit beers from exploding, there is controversy among industry professionals and beer enthusiasts about who exactly is responsible when an explosion occurs.
Who Is At Fault For Exploding Beer Bottles?
When you buy a pack of beer, you’re not thinking about the possibility of one of those cans or bottles exploding in your hand. You would be understandably shocked and angry if it did. Exploding bottles, while very rare, can cause serious injury – particularly to your eyes – and are not to be taken lightly.
Some experts say that customers are responsible for exercising common sense when handling their products.
Eric Ruta, the owner of New Jersey’s Magnify Brewing, recently told Good Beer Hunting that customer responsibility is similar to going to the grocery store for milk.
“If you … leave it in your car for two days, then drink it, you’re going to get sick,” he said.
Magnify Brewing even used social media to warn customers about explosion risk, saying, “Please note that this beer contains significantly more fruit than we’ve ever put into a beer before … [this] requires responsibility once these cans get in your hands! It is imperative that these cans remain cold at all times!”
Of course, not every brewer goes to those lengths to warn consumers. However, most craft beer producers agree that the onus should always be on them to create a safe and enjoyable beer experience. Some have even sought legal advice on the best way to sufficiently warn consumers about the risks of fruit beer.
One brewer expressed his frustration at blaming the customer via Twitter.
“I can’t believe it’s even a conversation,” he wrote. “If a brewery knowingly packages beer that has the potential to explode, they clearly don’t give a damn about the consumer, and I’m angry they exist.”
Still, others believe that both parties are liable when someone is injured from a bottle explosion. But one thing is clear – victims of exploding bottles are the ones who suffer severe or permanent damage and should consider filing a product liability lawsuit.
Lawsuits Filed After Bottle Explosions
The first big case filed after a beer bottle explosion was in 2018, when a New York City bartender filed a lawsuit against beer giant Corona after a piece of glass shot into his left eye, rendering it permanently blind.
Gonzalo Luis-Morales was stocking the bar’s ice buckets with beer when a bottle of Corona Extra exploded. He has lost his depth perception and ability to perform simple tasks such as filling a cup or walking without assistance. He’s undergone two surgeries and needs another, all for just a 20-30% restoration of vision in the injured eye. Just being around glass bottles now makes him nervous.
Luis-Morales’ attorney said that at least two other employees at the same bar had also been injured from exploding Corona bottles. His lawsuit alleges that Corona cut corners on safety during production and failed to exercise appropriate quality control.
Two more people suffered injuries in 2018 while handling bottles of Corona, including a 75-year-old California man who said it felt like a grenade was exploding when shards of glass tore apart his leg.
Some small local breweries have gone so far as to issue recalls when customers have reported exploding bottles, but Corona has not indicated any such move.
The product liability lawyers at Curcio Law have been providing compassionate legal assistance to injured consumers in Virginia for nearly 40 years. Product liability is a complicated area, and we have the knowledge and experience to work your case while you focus on recovery. Sit down with us for a free consultation by calling or texting at 703-836-3366 or contacting us online whenever you’re ready.
Tom Curcio has devoted his career to representing people seriously injured or killed in car, pedestrian, bicycle, and truck crashes, and by dangerous dogs, unsafe products, and premises. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to so they may rebuild their lives with dignity. Tom is the co-author of the book Evidence For The Trial Lawyer, and a much sought-after speaker on personal injury, trial practice, evidence, and professionalism. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.