Suicide Sunday

My friends who are high school teachers speak of “Suicide Sunday” the day before classes begin again each week.  The anxiety and stress of preparing for Monday’s class pretty much kills the fun of a Sunday, and the stress makes people “suicidal” (I put in scare quotes because I hope that most teachers aren’t actually suicidal each Sunday).

As a university professor, I have a little less (read: lot less) requirements for structured in-class time.  I’d get into the differences in work load and expectations, but this blog is about stuff in glass, not my career.

However, when I have new classes at the beginning of the year, the anxiety ramps up.  So last night I had what I call the “actor’s nightmare” the dream in which you are expected to do something for which you’ve prepared a long time, but you have to wing it, and disaster ensues.  This one was funny, it had to do with me being given the task of printing out graduation diplomas while students who will receive them are crossing the stage at convocation.   Of course, the fancy printer broke down, and the multi-step process of printing was a complete joke.  I wanted to punch our university president whose crazy idea this was.  But for various reasons, that impulse is nothing new.

The other dream I had was about brewing.  It was brewing anxiety.  You see, I have this Russian Imperial Stout that I brewed in April.  It’s a big, strong, sweet and incredibly good (surprisingly good, actually) beer that ages well.  Now that it’s almost 6 months in, it should be pefect.

The problem is, it never carbonated.  So it’s flat. Which means it’s like dark, rich, lovely but a little too sweet syrup.  The right carbonation would make it excellent

I’ve been banging my head against this problem for literally months.  I know why it’s not carbonated: not enough yeast in the mix.  You see, after putting it in a secondary fermenter to rest for a month (which takes it off most of the yeast) I then split it into two fermenters, and threw oak chips in one for a week.  Taste-wise, this was great.  But the tertiary “fermentation” removed so much yeast that there was not enough to create carbonation when I bottled it.

The first step recommended when this happens is keep agitating the bottles, to get what little yeast is there back into the solution.  Eventually it will multiply and make enough CO2 for a respectable carbonation.

That did not work.  so my second idea was to buy a package of yeast which “attenuates” more–eats more of the sugars–than the yeast I used.  Also, given that this beer is about 8.5% alcohol, this yeast had to be more alcohol tolerant, but not introduce all sorts of new flavours that would conflict with the original and intended style.  I used an Irish yeast strain from WYeast.

I opened all the bottles, with onlly one making the “pfft” of a carbonated beer.  Using a very well sanitized eye dropper, I then distributed the liquid yeast across all the bottles.  I thought I  was over doing it, and so, worried that I’d create so much carbonation that they’d explode, I only used half of the yeast in the pack.

That was stupid.  Another month later, they are still flat.  And the stash is diminishing.  Because I started with over 3 dozen bottles, and now I have about 25.  The only way to really get a good idea of carbonation is to open one and pour it into a glass, by which time it’s already 1) contaminated so it won’t be able to be returned to the bottle and ferment clean and 2) about to be poured down my throat, carbonation be damned.

My dream was about what to do with the rest.  I think in part of the dream the beer had gone from being flat to way too carbonated, where it explodes from the bottle when I open it (I experienced this with my first ever brew).  This, in the dream (I think, it’s all fuzzy) was because I tried using carbonation tablets, little pill shaped tablets you drop in the beer to carbonate it instead of bottle carbonation.  It is something I’m considering doing, but of course the dream means I am not all that confident I won’t ruin what has the potential of being an utterly lovely beer.

Anyway,  this week I will head back over to Buffalo, to my local homebrew shop, and get some good advice.  Hopefully, by October, when I expected this beer to be ready, it will be nicely carbonated, and awesome.  Stay tuned.


About danmalleck

Medical historian and jack-of-all-trades curmudgeon. I tend to ramble about politics, social incivility, and our self-centred culture more interested in buying the next cool ringtone or LED TV than actively engaging in the sorts of discussions and issues that matter. The more opportunity we have to buy more stuff, the less concern there is, it seems, in politics, social justice and let's face it, basic human decency, unless those things actually can save us money or get us more things to show how awesome we are through displaying our material wealth. And I like to brew beer, make cheese, and put food in jars.
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