I recently learned that Jeff Carlson, the head brewer at Harmon Brewing (pictured at right), has been sidelined with a bad workplace injury sustained at the brewery. A mash tun overflow sent boiling liquid down his boot. He’s okay, but its a serious injury. This brought to mind an important topic. We love to drink beer, but we should remember to be thankful for the work that goes into each pint.
There’s a real cost of beer that is not measured in dollars and cents: brewery injuries. At its core, brewing beer is an industrial process. Sure, there’s plenty of creativity and imagination involved, along with some chemistry, but in the end the production of beer is like many other industrial processes. There is real danger involved. Beer drinkers should appreciate that.
Not long ago, Janelle Prichard sustained a surprisingly similar injury. She’s a well-known local brewer who’s worked for the likes of Pike Brewing, Snoqualmie Falls Brewing, and Spinnaker Bay Brewing, where she also suffered severe burns from a boot-full of boiling wort. Just the other day I heard Alex Dittmar, the owner and head brewer at Airways Brewing, tell the story of dropping a full keg of beer on his foot.
I don’t want to bring you down, but commercial brewing is kind of a dangerous gig. Between 2009 and 2012, four people died in craft brewery incidents.
Safety is important business around a brewery. We like to think of brewers as jolly fellas who get paid to do what they love, but its not all smiles and pints. Brewers endure strained backs, burned forearms, tweaked knees, twisted angles, smashed toes, and various other injuries. Some of the injuries are more serious than others. Heavy things, boiling things, and caustic things are all part of the game.
Best wishes to Jeff Carlson and here’s to a speedy recovery! And let’s all remember that brewing beers isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes it hurts.