Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Daybreak in Chicago

Awoken from a fitful sleep for the final time, I was terribly startled this morning. The cat was sleeping nicely with me, so it wasn't his usual pre-dawn antics. The family was safe and my apartment has the added security feature of creaking even if the cat walks on it, so it probably wasn't an intruder. This being Chicago, there isn't much I could do if it was. The cat himself was in bed, as was the rest of the family. But maybe the hunky but unattainable lawyer from TV, who I saw get shanked by his own daughter just before going to bed had become a zombie and was coming for us.

Oh, right, he's too busy fighting off wild dogs, I guess some wishes come true*. If the spectral form of what Wikipedia tells me is one Eric McCormack isn't coming for me and my family, maybe he's coming to spoil my beer. On Friday I whipped up an American Amber Ale, using a recipe from the excellent Brewing Classic Styles, by the pope of homebrew. The brewday went ok, except for forgetting my HLT was at someone else's house, my starter sitting for three weeks in the fridge getting sour and running out of Irish Moss. It is my first brew using the foil instead of airlock method, maybe the terrifying scratching noise was the foil letting gas out of the carboy. Maybe it was finally fermenting, despite the 55F water bath it is in.

Yea, 55F water bath, not a good idea. I did what I normally do here, made a water bath and tossed some frozen water bottles in it to offset the heat of fermentation. But this time, the water going into the bath was pretty cool and the new chest freezer must put off *way* less heat than the old fridge. Coupled with fall and our refusal to turn on the radiators, the bath got really cold, and by Saturday morning it was 60F, at best, in the carboy, with no signs of krausen. Not cool. Well, very cool, about 7F off what I needed. Putting the yeast to sleep like, well, a drunk husband and Mr. McCormack's old show.

But what to do with this quickly rotting beer that just won't stay at temp. Turning the heaters on is lame and uncessary when the house is a comfortable 62F, and I've been thinking of fermenting out back anyway. Most hombrewers I know have either a wife, or a landlord, I've got both. This means no basement to shove endless fridges in, and the knowledge that the 15 cu ft chest freezer can't have a friend in the apartment. Aquarium heater to the rescue!

*Ed. Note: You're ok, Mr. TV man. Your show has helped America become a little less intolerant (though not nearly enough) and we here at JABB don't actually hope you get killed by this mini-cujo and come back as a zombie or other spectral force]**
**Ed. Note 2: M. Randolph does not speak for the entire team here at JABB.
***Ed. Note 3: We've decided, since we are all cat people, that while feelings of your eventual zombification are mixed, we do agree that cats rule and dogs drool.

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