Still on vacation. I just finished brewing my second batch of beer in the last week. It was originally called “Barking Buddy”, named after our biggest sled dog Buddy, but because of the heavy snow we’ve been getting today, I decided to rename it “Barking Buddy Blizzard Bitter.” All this snow is odd because early last week we had daytime highs in the 50s and the snow on the ground was rapidly melting. Suddenly, it looks a lot more like winter than spring. The top photo shows the start of the boil; that’s Buddy in the dog yard in the background of the photo.
Devil Dog Rye IPA fermented nicely over the past week, going from a gravity of 1.086 down to 1.022 at transfer to the secondary fermenter (a keg). I left for a funeral the day after I brewed it and put Andrea in charge of monitoring the temperature and the location of the fermentation chamber’s insulated lid. I removed the lid the morning after brewing because the yeast was going crazy and the wort temperature was up to 75°F. The wort was pitched on top of the yeast cake from the primary fermentation of my previous batch, and that’s why I got such a rapid fermentation and high temperature despite the high starting gravity. I was worried that there might be some off-flavors from the heat, but the beer tasted really good when I transferred it so I think it’ll be OK. Without Andrea’s help, it probably would have either gotten even hotter (if I’d left the lid on) or gotten too cold and I would have returned from Chicago to a stuck fermentation.
Today’s brew was relatively uneventful. I got another very high mash efficiency (85%!) this time around. As I mentioned in my last brewing post, I suspect this is due to my new mill, but it could also be the longer mashing times I’ve used, or the change in base malt (Castle Pale to Crisp Maris Otter). I’m happy that my yields are back up again, but it’s unfortunate that I changed all three variables at the same time so I can’t positively assign a cause to the improvement. I also hit my target pitching temperature of 66°F on the nose this time, so I’m finally getting the hang of the pump I’m using to circulate cold water through the plate chiller. It’s all good.
The second photo shows Kiva’s reaction to the dog beds being occupied. Buddy has a tendency to stretch himself out across two beds, and when Koidern nestled in next to Buddy there was no room for Kiva. But rather than moving to one of the other beds we’ve got, she wedged in behind Koidern. In the photo she’s giving Koidern the stink-eye, trying to get her to move. Didn’t work, and eventually all three went to sleep all packed together on the two beds.
One more day of vacation until the weekend. I’m looking forward to smoking salmon, working on a side table for Andrea, and relaxing.
Buddy got some of his stitches out earlier in the week and was given permission by the vet to go for his first run of the year on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, it was 34 degrees above normal yesterday and above freezing so we decided to take him out to the Creek instead. Piper and Nika have been going with me on most of my trail walks, but this was Buddy’s first experience off the leash. He was nervous at first, and kept running back to the dog yard, but eventually settled into it and had a great time warping around the Creek with the other dogs.
Nika was going crazy; click on the image below to see a close up of her craziness. Piper looks a little freaked out.
We woke up this morning to a light dusting of snow in the Goldstream Valley, and it’s been snowing all morning since. It appears that the winter weather switch has been thrown, so it won’t be too much longer before any snow that falls will be with us until April. Most stations in Fairbanks haven’t been above 40°F since Tuesday, and the snow on the ground will help keep the temperatures low. The last four days at our house on the Creek have been warmer than the rest of town, so I’m guessing that we’re experiencing a warming effect from the warm (relative to the air temperature) Creek water. Once it freezes over, we’re going to be one of the coldest spots in the region.
The photo shows Buddy, Kiva and Koidern waiting at the door to the deck. It’s a sliding glass door, which isn’t exactly optimal when the dogs want to go in and out every fifteen minutes, but it’s great to have all the light from such a large glass surface. We put a piece of 1/8" Lexan over the lower pane of glass to protect it from dog toenails.
Spring in Fairbanks is often a long, muddy season but this year we got less than a third of the snowfall we normally get and early spring was remarkably cold. So on April first, when the temperatures suddenly rose above freezing, it was like the springtime switch had been thrown, toggling us from winter to summer. Ten days later and the roads are dry and clear, the dog yard is more than half melted out, most of the snow on the roof has turned to water and run down the gutters, and even our driveway isn't too bad.
That also means that it's summertime for the dogs, so they've got to find other ways to occupy themselves since they're not training or racing three or four times a week. As you can see on the right, Kiva and Buddy* have already started their grueling schedule of non-stop sleeping, broken by occasional bursts of activity around dinnertime, and periodically racing around the dog yard after Piper when she plays keep-away with a stick.
As for us, it's time to start replenishing the firewood supply with five or six trips to the woodcutting area, making repairs to the exterior of our house, and getting our garden going. This year's garden will hopefully contain lots of cabbage, beets, potatoes, and maybe some leaf lettuce and broccoli.
*The orange spot on Buddy is a bit of paint from one of the races.