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View Full Version : Fermenter Explosion at Franconia Brewery in McKinney, TX



StraightNoChaser
02-19-2012, 08:37
http://i.imgur.com/HQ7Gb.jpg

Yesterday was nothing short of a miracle after a fermenter exploded at Franconia during their Saturday morning tour.

The tour began as usual, the doors open and everyone gets a brew after chipping in $5 for the tour. After everyone has a full glass Dennis (the brewer/owner) starts the tour inside the fermenting tank room and begins to explain how they make their beer. This goes on for about 5-10 minutes until he asks us to all go to the walk in cooler where he will finish the tour. Normally he lets us refill our beers on the way to the walk in but this time he asked us to go straight there so we could finish the tour, then he'd let us drink as much beer as we want.

Everyone from the tour group, about 80-100 people, all crammed into the ~1,600 SF room, the door was closed and Dennis continued with his shtick. About 5 minutes into this we hear an extremely loud BOOM coming from outside the walk in. This was almost immediately following by an even louder series of crashing sounds. Before anyone could even react, the sliding door to the cooler was flung out and in rushed a 10' wall of beer. Everyone standing next to the door was literally drenched in brew.

Looking out I couldn't tell exactly what had happened yet but I could see the corrugated metal sheeting from the walls had been ripped apart and an steel I-beam from the same wall was on the ground. Everyone was kind of in shock about what happened but we started to slowly trickle out. It wasn't until I walked out of the cooler that I saw the tank on the ground. A 40-50 barrel tank had literally blown through a wall into the next room over, dumping it's entire contents in the process. It was a calamity.

Two employees were rushed to the hospital, one of them by helicopter. According to Franconia's Facebook page, the girl who got airlifted was discharged last night in good condition.

It is truly hard to describe how much of a miracle it was that no one was killed or seriously maimed. We were in the fermenting tank room no more than 5 minutes before it blew. The beer taps are also right next to the wall that the tank tore through. Had we still been in the tank room, or maybe getting beers at the taps, people would have died. Absolutely amazing that all of the guests were inside the cooler when it happened

Crude image, but this should give you an idea of how close we came to an even worse disaster. Just a few minutes difference would have spelled certain doom for more than a couple people.

http://i.imgur.com/qVR8Q.gif


Here is a video I took of the aftermath as we walk out of the cooler... will get you a good look at the damage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I98bUw_Sddc


And some news articles... featuring my pictures and videos in fact

http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Explosion-at-McKinney-brewery-injures-two-139580134.html

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/02/18/2-injured-at-mckinney-brewery/

http://beernews.org/2012/02/two-taken-to-hospital-after-brewery-explosion-in-texas/


I've been in touch with a lot of the local beer community... people at Common Table, Holy Grail, Whiskey Cake, Meddlesome Moth, Deep Ellum Brewing, etc., were all very saddened by the news. We can only hope that the employees and the brewery itself will all recover 100% from this event.

Bourbon Boiler
02-19-2012, 09:59
Wow! Hope the people all recover physically and emotionally, and that the business can move forward as well. Scary situation.

StraightNoChaser
02-19-2012, 10:40
Wow! Hope the people all recover physically and emotionally, and that the business can move forward as well. Scary situation.
This was just posted by Dennis on Facebook


Ok like prommised another quick update. Just visited the guy who was entered in the Hospital. He is doing ok. He has some back injuries and a brocken ripp. It will take some time to heal but they may release him today. It was good seeing him this morning and best wishes from all of us. We hope we can get everything fixed up and get back on our feet. A lot to take care of now but we will keep everyone in the loop. Thanks again for all the good and helping feelings.

Good to hear the guy will be alright. Could have been SO much worse!!!!

MarkEdwards
02-19-2012, 11:45
Holy cow! I saw this article just a few minutes ago on the NBC site, and was wondering if this is the one you were at. Thank goodness for the sheer good luck that had everyone safe. :shocked:

StraightNoChaser
02-19-2012, 12:40
Holy cow! I saw this article just a few minutes ago on the NBC site, and was wondering if this is the one you were at. Thank goodness for the sheer good luck that had everyone safe. :shocked:
I'm reading that now. How is it possible to have a 4 sentence article with typos in it?

smokinjoe
02-19-2012, 13:06
I know zip on how this stuff works. Anyone want to take a guess on how something like this happens? What went wrong?

StraightNoChaser
02-19-2012, 13:40
I know zip on how this stuff works. Anyone want to take a guess on how something like this happens? What went wrong?
Well unlike whiskey fermenters these are not open top, therefore they are subjected to a lot of pressure as the yeasts poop out CO2. Typically there are "breathers" installed on these tanks that let the gas out. Maybe it was clogged? I'm really just taking a stab at this but I can only assume that faulty equipment or a bad weld succumbed to the pressure :dunno:

StraightNoChaser
02-19-2012, 13:40
I don't think even the brewery knows for sure what happened yet. Hopefully they will alert us to the cause when it's discovered.

smokinjoe
02-19-2012, 14:37
Well unlike whiskey fermenters these are not open top, therefore they are subjected to a lot of pressure as the yeasts poop out CO2. Typically there are "breathers" installed on these tanks that let the gas out. Maybe it was clogged? I'm really just taking a stab at this but I can only assume that faulty equipment or a bad weld succumbed to the pressure :dunno:

Oh, I see. I would guess they would/should have some sort of pressure gauge and warning system in place to alert of a high pressure situation? If that's what happened, I can imaging that tank could go flying around like an untied, filled up, balloon after you let it go. Ouch!

Ejmharris
02-19-2012, 16:19
Great to hear you guys made it through without injury. I remember reading your post earlier in the morning with the last minute request to go and then I saw the NBC article. Was very glad to see your post this morning that all was ok. Really strange that it could build that much pressure to cause so much damage.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

T Comp
02-19-2012, 17:17
I don't think even the brewery knows for sure what happened yet. Hopefully they will alert us to the cause when it's discovered.

I'm sure lawyers, insurance companies and governmental agencies will be arguing the cause for many years to come. I hope the owners can go on and everyone gets over it soon enough. Incredible!

MarkEdwards
02-19-2012, 18:32
Really strange that it could build that much pressure to cause so much damage.

Good example is to put dry ice in a plastic soda bottle, and watch the top expand like a pan of Jiffy Pop popcorn as the dry ice releases its CO2.

I'm here to tell you that inside a concrete warehouse, it sounds like a major explosion, and can mangle the coffee can it is sitting in.

CO2 expansion can do pretty scary things, even if you are standing behind the forklift to watch... :bigeyes:

The secretary in the front office threatened to kill me after she got over her fear that I had just killed myself.:grin:

AaronWF
02-20-2012, 13:11
Well I'm certainly glad no one was seriously injured. I'm also really looking forward to Franconia's imminent, limited release "Fermenter Hopslosion" once they collect all the spilled beer.

Bourbon Boiler
02-20-2012, 17:18
I know zip on how this stuff works. Anyone want to take a guess on how something like this happens? What went wrong?

A friend of mine recently had a much smaller scale (and much less dangerous) incident with about five gallons of beer exploding from a brewing bucket. In that case, a hop actually was stuck in the valve designed to release the pressure. We were just dicsussing this last Friday, wondering what the commercial distillers do to ensure the gas always vents.

tmckenzie
02-20-2012, 17:30
HAving brewed for a living and being a distiller you have to be careful with co2. Not only will it build pressure and blw stuff up, it will kill you. I have seen one person knocked down by it. Even in low doses it has a narcotic effect with a nasty hangover. We open top ferment and we have sensors that constantly monitor the air in the distillery and it is linked to an air sytem to ventilate the building. And belive me it helps. When I left at 6 it was kicking on every 5 minutes or so. Looking at that video that fementer had no pressure relief valve. All closed fementers have a vent on them that is hooked to a hose that sits in a bucket of santizer that lets the co2 bubble out and lets no air get back in. But everyone I have ever been around had a safety valve that would pop off if for some reason it got clogged. It could be somebody clean and sanitized the tank and did not uncap the vent and hooked the hose to it. Fermenters are not rated for much pressure at all. I would imagine that if it was closed off, as big as it was, in a days time of fermenting, it would explode. At least it sounds like everybody hurt will be ok. But I would hate to be the owner of the brewery.

timd
02-21-2012, 15:43
I was there with StraightNoChaser - it was LOUD! Lots of free beer, however it was all on/in my clothes (and it was the lager).

There fermenters DO vent into buckets with of sanitizer, and they have numerous valves/controls on the front for draining/filling.

As of this morning, the exact cause was still not determined - they'd had the fire department and other local inspectors on site (along with the owners) trying to figure out the cause.

They are dealing with insurance, repairs, getting electricity back on, permits to re-build, etc. - no tours for the foreseeable future, but Dennis (the owner) seems in decent spirits and appears hopeful they'll rebuild.

It turns out the two people most seriously injured don't work there (we all thought they did for some reason), but both are out of the hospital and visited the brewery today. One's got a ways to go before he's fully recovered, but seemed in good spirits (according to Dennis' Facebook post).

Very scary experience - and as was said earlier, it's a miracle nobody was killed!

StraightNoChaser
02-28-2012, 17:39
Latest update from their Facebook


Befor the weekend another quick update. We had engineers, and state in. They are working hard on the exact cause. The tank will be picked up and closer looked at it. it looks like at least two things came together and hope we will get clarification on it.
We where working hard this week to get back Brewing and we did brew today and will continue all weekend. Quick Reminder no tour for the next two to Three weeks. Construction will take some time.
Greetings are going out to the two people Injured. They came by this week and we wish continues healing.

Bourbon Boiler
02-28-2012, 19:30
Thanks for the continued updates SNC. Certainly hope the people and the industry get stronger as a result of the investigations.

StraightNoChaser
03-10-2012, 07:12
Franconia will reopen for tours today!

Bourbon Boiler
03-10-2012, 10:53
Good News! :toast: