First, the setup. My plan for the winter is to do a series of lagers, which is new territory for me. The plan is to reuse yeast throughout the season. Going to start with a PM-ified version of Revvy's Vienna Lager, followed by a doppelbock, a bock, and a maibock.
Since I've only got three carboys, and one is tied up with a batch of mead, plus I have only one fermenting fridge (plus a garage which will either be appropriate for lagering or for fermentation, depending on the outside temps), I put together a detailed schedule for when to brew, when to rack, etc. It took into account holidays, etc, to make sure I wasn't signing myself up to rack and start a new brew on Christmas or something silly. It took almost an hour of tinkering and weighing the benefits of extended primaries versus an extra week of lagering to figure it out. (At one point, to make things work I think I will have to wash and store the yeast for a week instead of doing a quick-wash and re-pitch.)
Finally got it all figured out, without overcomitting my resources, and hitting my goal of having the Maibock ready by mid-May. Started the 3L, 2 vial starter late last week, built up an STC-1000 temperature controller on Saturday, and mashed away this evening before dinner. Then I went to the garage to get the 6 gallon carboy I use for primaries, so I could sanitize and be ready to go.
It wasn't in the box where I store it. I puzzled over this for a minute, then I remembered... ...it was full of 2-week old mead in the closet! Throughout the whole planning process, I'd completely forgotten that the very first step shouldn't start until I was ready to rack the mead over!
There was a moment of panic. Then I remembered my favorite Papazian quote. No, not RDWHAHB, the other one: "Relax. Don't worry. Do what must be done."
In this case, there just wasn't any alternative but to rack the mead and hope for the best. Fortunately, it had dropped down to 1.006, so it was well past the point where stalling is a major concern. I'd have liked to have left it another week just to get it all the way done, but it's 90% there or more, and I have been very kind to the yeast so I'm sure they'll help me out. It's already tasting pretty good, though I am really curious to see how it turns out. My previous mead, which is probably just reaching the start of maturity, finished at 1.016 or so, and I've never tried a dry mead before.
So anyway, I racked it over to a smaller carboy and filled a little satellite with a half-gallon extra to cover later racking losses, and went on with the beer. Everything seems to have gone well---hit my numbers as far as I can tell, and I've got it chilling in the fridge now. Tomorrow morning I think it should be down to the pitching temp, and we'll be off.
Anyway, if anyone is still reading, I just wanted to share my first big planning screw-up. Fortunately, as far as I can tell it was minor in impact because the mead was, thankfully, progressing rapidly. It was a pretty huge brain fart, though!