For many, brewing is a casual hobby. For my friend Ben, it’s more of a calling. The guy has the talent, the scores, and countless awards to prove it.
Like any avid brewer, Ben has acquired a fair amount of equipment over the years. From beakers and buckets to hoses and burners, he’s got it all. Someone from his apartment complex took notice but unfortunately they mistook the homebrew setup for a drug laboratory.
A couple of weeks ago local police and firefighters raided his place looking for evidence of an illegal drug making operation. He was not home to see them going through his things but it was very obvious that their primary focus was his beer room, where he keeps his brewing equipment. They left their mark and moved plenty of things around, including full carboys – which as any brewer knows, is less than ideal.
When they were unable to find the chemicals and illegal substances they were looking for, they decided to confiscate his propane tanks (it is actually against the law to have them in a building) and they so kindly threatened to throw in a citation for having a dead smoke alarm battery. To make sure their point was made, the fire marshal noted he may make a repeat visit in a couple of weeks to ensure there are no tanks present, and make absolute certain that dead battery has been replaced.
Although the authorities were not in possession of a search warrant, the law states that a property manager can grant the fire department entry without notifying the tenant if they believe there is a fire related risk and/or violation. Ah, loopholes.
This all happened in a relatively boring suburban town. Maybe there is so little going on that the police and firefighters need to occasionally bully a homebrewer for some kind of excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that they should take potential meth labs and drug related issues seriously – but they certainly could have done a little bit more investigating before they burst into his residence and tore through his things. I’m not terribly well versed in meth labs myself but if Breaking Bad has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of very smelly chemicals involved. Personally, I think the brewing process smells delicious – nothing like cleaners or other dangerous substances.
A quick Google search informed me that strong chemical odors indicating ammonia, ether and acetone are the top indicators of the harmful ingredients used to cook meth. Those ingredients include benzene, sulfuric acid, and phenylpropanolamine. There were none of those smells going on and neighbors never once witnessed black smoke pouring out of my buddy’s apartment. The windows were not covered with foil or blankets, and no one was bringing fuel cans, drain cleaners, or coffee filters into the residence on a regular basis. My friend, a reputable tenant, has never had an unusual number of visitors coming and going, and there hasn’t been any suspicious late night activity either (unless you count drinking beer.)
Apparently plastic tubing, funnels, propane tanks, and buckets were enough evidence to justify violating an upstanding citizen’s privacy and personal space. A sincere apology would be nice but instead authorities are once again inconveniencing this well-respected brewer over a smoke detector battery. Isn’t that something? Something called harassment?