Homebrewers dealing with extreme cold or foul weather might wonder if they can brew beer in a garage to protect themselves from the elements. While many homebrewers have reported brewing in their garage without issue, I thought this would be an important topic to address due to potential safety concerns.
Many homebrewers brew beer in their garage frequently to avoid poor weather or extreme temperatures outside. While brewing beer in the garage should not cause any negative impact with the beer, using a propane burner indoors is considered unsafe.
If you are thinking about brewing your beer inside your garage then you will need to think carefully about this decision because your safety could be at risk. Just because other people have done it without issue does not mean that you won’t encounter a problem. Let’s look a little more closely at this topic to see what brewers say as well as discuss important safety concerns.
Can you brew beer in the garage?
There is no beer-related reason why you couldn’t brew beer in your garage. To brew beer you just need the proper equipment and ingredients along with a heat source that can bring your water up to the correct temps for mashing, sparging, and boiling the wort.
In fact, it’s very common for brewers to set up a little ‘brewery’ inside their garage so that they can keep all of their equipment together and not have to cart everything back and forth on brew day.
Unfortunately, the most common heat source that homebrewers use outside of the kitchen is a propane burner. While they do a great job outdoors, these burners are not designed to be used inside a house or even an enclosed area with a ceiling, such as a garage. If you choose to brew your beer in the garage with a propane burner then you are putting yourself in your home at risk.
With that being said, tons of brewers report using a propane burner in their garage for years without any issues.
Let’s see why propane would be dangerous to burn inside the garage.
Dangers of brewing in the garage with propane
As I said before, you will need a heat source during your brewing process and if you are out in the garage there are only a few options.
While you could use something like an electric hotplate or even a butane burner, these options are way less practical from a brewing standpoint than using a traditional propane burner. Plus, butane is a lot more expensive than propane and you will be using a fair amount on brew day.
There are two major issues with using a propane burner inside a garage: the flame could cause a fire and the carbon monoxide produced could be poisonous.
Let’s address those issues separately.
A propane burner could cause a fire inside the garage
This problem is obvious.
Anytime there is an open flame you will have to worry about the possibility of something catching fire. If you are brewing beer inside your garage, then there are any number of ways that a fire could start:
- The ceiling inside the garage gets too hot and eventually catches on fire. If it’s drywall, that’s at 451 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The propane burner is knocked over and lands against the structure of the house.
- Clothing or brewing packing make contact with the flame and catch on fire.
- Combustible materials that are normally stored in a garage (such as gasoline or oil) are too close to the flame.
All of these situations are very easy to imagine and likely impossible to prevent completely. It would just take one lapse in attention for something to catch on fire and if you couldn’t put the fire out quickly enough the whole house could go up in smoke!
If you are deadset on brewing inside your garage anyway, here are some important safety tips to consider:
- Ensure that your ceilings are at least 8 feet high and that your burner isn’t positioned high off of the ground.
- Check to make sure your burner is away from anything on the ceiling such as a garage door opener, storage, or wiring.
- Place a thermometer on the ceiling just above the burner while brewing to see how hot the temperatures get.
- Make sure there is a wide-open space around your propane burner to minimize the risk of accidental fire.
- Move any combustibles, such as gasoline, outside the garage.
- Make sure that your propane stand is firmly mounted to the ground or a platform to avoid falling over
- If possible, use a propane burner with safety features such as an automatic shutoff
Even with these precautions, it would be impossible to guarantee complete safety and it is therefore not recommended that you brew inside the garage with a propane burner.
A propane burner could cause carbon monoxide poisoning
Aside from the risk of fire, there is also a huge risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using a propane burner indoors if you aren’t taking the proper precautions. In fact, about 400 people die each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning and many of those deaths can be attributed to using propane heaters or other equipment indoors without proper ventilation.
While most people might think of a car running inside a closed garage when they think of carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s not too different to image a propane burner doing the same thing. Inside a closed, unventilated space, carbon monoxide can build up quickly. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for a person to notice if they are being poisoned because the effects can be subtle until it’s too late.
Carbon monoxide can be extremely deadly so you should always watch out for symptoms of exposure:
- Loss of consciousness
If you insist on brewing inside your garage with a propane heater, here are some important carbon monoxide-related safety tips to consider:
- Invest in a carbon monoxide detector (or two!) and install them inside the garage. Ideally, they will be lower to the ground because carbon monoxide will tend to sit lower in the air.
- Open the garage door completely (ideally) or at least partially.
- Use a fan to keep air circulating throughout the garage. Ideally, you would use two fans to bring fresh air in and then move the carbon monoxide out
If you aren’t familiar with carbon monoxide detectors, here is a 3-pack of a highly rated and affordable detector that you could install in the garage and throughout the house. These work great in tandem with traditional smoke alarms to help protect your home and family.
Anecdotally, keeping the garage door open and ensuring that there is proper ventilation has worked well for many homebrewers. Still, there will always be a risk of running a propane heater inside a garage and a little carelessness could allow a dangerous carbon monoxide situation to develop quickly.