I spent a good part of my Sunday on the ladder up a couple of stories at roof level, and crawling around my attic on my belly, in hopes of finally getting rid of the squirrels as cold weather approaches. There are two gaps (1 in the front of the house and 1 in the back) where roof lines meet are the only places I can figure the little flying squirrels are getting in and out. Given the amount of droppings found in the attic, under the insulation, near the gap in the front, I figure that’s their main entrance. Thankfully, I can get to the roof in front with my ladder fully extended. The same spot on the back of the house is higher (the ground slops, so the back has a walkout basement) due to the lower ground level, and I can’t get to it with the same ladder.
Now, mind you, I hate ladders, heights, the whole nine yards. But I’ve learned to get up there, on the ladder, in the Winter, clearing snow with a snow rake, and ice damns, with a hatchet. Yes, I shake a lot at first, but eventually I get comfortable enough to deal.
What’s this have to do with beer? Don’t worry, there’s a strange connection, trust me.
So… I somehow managed to get up there with the rechargeable drill and the 1-way door, mounted it to the fascia board, and added some hardware cloth to block the small spaces where the door couldn’t. I then used expanding spray foam to (hopefully) block their access to the same gap in the back of the house, from within the attic.
Last year, we had a flying squirrel colony up there, likely accumulating over the years. With a have-a-heart trap I caught nine. And then I heard one trapped in a wall. Eventually I cut a hole in the wall and found 3 carcasses of flying squirrels. Later found and closed off an opening in the attic that allowed them to drop into that space. After all that, the last couple of them learned to avoid the trap, and have continued to live in an area that I cannot access.
During all this (here comes the beer connection) I brewed my attempt at Mike “Tasty” McDole’s award-winning “Janet’s Brown Ale.” JBA is a big American Brown. It would get kicked out of the American Brown category due to the IBUs and hop presence. It’s around a 6.5-7.0% ale with IBUs around 60. It could be called a Brown IPA, were there such a thing. One thing I dislike about most Black IPAs is the presence of roast in the flavor. The JBA thankfully avoids that, using chocolate malt for it’s color and flavor, in addition to some crystal malt. It was maybe my 3rd or 4th all-grain attempt. I remember I brewed it on Thanksgiving morning in 2011. It came in around 6.7% and had a viscious ferment that almost blew the cover off my bucket fermenter when the airlock clogged (used blow-off tubes ever since).
I wasn’t in the habit of naming my beers, and despite it being the exact recipe for Tasty’s JBA, I decided, given all the squirrel trouble i was dealing with, “Squirrels in the Attic” Brown Ale was appropriate.
The brew was good. A bit thin, but I’ve since discovered that with my brew “system” (ahem… cooler mash tun, batch sparging), I need to mash at a slightly higher temp than many recipes suggest. Tasty’s JBA recipe calls for a mash around 154°… which I’ve since found means more like 156° for me. JBA calls for the clean Chico strain (WLP001 or Wyeast 1056) of yeast. This tends to have a high attenuation (it converts more sugars to alcohol than some yeasts). I could use a slightly less attenuative yeast which would not finish as low a gravity, leaving more sugars in the beer, and a bit more mouthfeel. But, I’ve been enjoying the simplicity of using dry yeast like Safale 05, which is basically the Chico strain in dry form. Some purists still prefer liquid yeast over dry, and for most strains there aren’t real dry equivalents, but in the case of the Chico/Cal ale strain, I think S-05 is just as good. Thing is, it’s even a bit more attenuative, IMHO, than the liquid form. I’m thinking for the rebrew of the Brown Ale, I will still use the dry yeast, and just bump up the mash temp (higher mash temp produces more unfermentable sugars, resulting in a higher finishing gravity, and a less dry beer).
Sooooo… while climbing up and down that damn ladder yesterday, almost losing my fingers as I had it fully extended and lost the grip on the rope, having it come sliding down at top speed, I’m thinking… “I hate those mutha-f’ing squirrels!!!” and then thinking, I could use a beer… I think it’s time to gather up the grains for Squirrels in the Attic batch #2.