The Croation Times brings us the cautionary tale of Otto Guggenmaier, a 56-year-old man in Entschendorf, Austria who ran a schnapps distillery out of his home to supplement his farming business.
Guggenmaier was adjusting the sill when it exploded, blowing off the side of his house and showering him in burning schnapps. The publication spoke with a paramedic, who said Guggenmaier "suffered severe second degree burns and has been put in an artificial coma."
Although the exact nature of the explosion is unclear, several at-home distilling websites caution about the risks of explosion. One such site, Home Distillation of Alcohol, puts it in plain terms:
Gas for heating is perfectly safe as long as it doesn't come into contact with alcohol, ie: the naked flame must not come into contact with alcohol either in the liquid or vapour form. At a very low % nothing will happen, in the middle range the alcohol will burn, and at a high % it will detonate and explode.
At-home beer brewers also face the possibility of exploding bottles, which occurs when fermentation continues too long and the bottles become too carbonated.
The schnapps incident brings to mind a few other booze-fueled explosions, at least two of which occurred in the UK last year. In July, five people were killed in an explosion at an illegal vodka making operation. In September, a man was tinkering with vodka distillation equipment in his bedroom when it exploded, blowing out his roof and windows.
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