Three people have been made extremely sick and one has died after drinking draught beer in a pub in North Carolina.
The Burke St Pub in Winston-Salem, NC, was established in 1997, and is your classic American pub, with a selection of its beers available by tap, advertised by oversized, novelty decals.
Reportedly, on a Thursday night in November, three people drank beer from the same line and “immediately began vomiting” saying their throats and mouths were burning.
The proprietors put in a call to emergency services around 8:20, suggesting to the 911 operator that they thought the beer line cleaners had left toxic chemicals in one of the lines.
The operator was told two customers were already on their way to hospital, while the third was still on the premises, violently ill and refusing to leave the restroom, and to “please send an ambulance”.
Emergency services responded and the third man was transported to hospital.
Sadly, in the following days the family of one of the men, 31-year-old Connor Sebastian, confirmed that he had died.
It soon came to light that an unidentified company comes to the pub to clean lines every second Tuesday (bi-weekly) and had been there two days prior.
The owners issued a statement offering that the suspected beer line cleaner could not be detected by sight or smell, and had been in the line “Unbenownst [sic] to our staff or patrons”.
A flurry of news reports appeared, and the question of who was investigating the incident arose.
It was confirmed that the County Health Dept and NC Dept of Labor would not be investigating because the pub doesn’t serve food.
But similarly, neither are local police, EMS or the North Carolina ABC Commission investigating, the latter suggesting this was because it was “something they had never dealt with before” and it appears to have been an accident.
Many pubs serving draught beer in the USA do not clean their beer lines at all, and instead rely on the initiative of major brewers to ‘flush’ their own product lines from time to time.
The increase in beer appreciation, particularly in the US, has led to a more thorough practice being employed at some venues, and particularly encouraged or done by the suppliers of more boutique beers, which are more susceptible to the flavour contaminations that accompany poor beer line cleanliness.
While not disclosing the company seemingly to blame for the fatal mishap, the owners let slip that it “has since reserviced their lines and followed all safety precautions to ensure their product is safe to serve”.
Likely in damage control, the pub was back on social media five days later promoting upcoming party nights – and relatively safe, packaged options such as tall cans of the bargain-basement brew Pabst Blue Ribbon doing “hard coffee”, for $3.50.