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And Now For Something Completely Different - Mead!

By jd in Science
Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:26:22 PM EST
Tags: Food (all tags)

The oldest known alchoholic beverage in the world, and one modern-day brewers persist in making completely wrong. So, if you're into trying the drink that the Greeks called the nectar of the Gods, then read on...
(Please note that this is an expanded version of my diary entry of the same title)

Forget any of the commercially made meads. The recipes are some of the worst I have ever tried. Honestly, there are more pleasent ways to make yourself vomit.

The following are some variants I use, based on a variety of sources (some dating back to 1750). They seem to be popular with those who have tried them, including well-seasoned drinkers.

Basic Recipe
Ingredients (for 1 gallon // 4.5 liters)

  • 1 gallon of water // 4.5 liters
  • 4 lbs. honey* // 1.8 kilograms
  • 1/2 pint very strong black tea // 0.3 liters
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 tbsp sugar // 59 milliliters
  • High-grade mead yeast or champaign yeast

(Note: Imperial units are to the British standard, although if you're consistant it probably doesn't make any difference. Metric units are approximate, though probably close enough to not be noticably different.)

Heat the water until boiling. Pour about 1/2 pint into a jug. Mix the honey into the remaining water until completely dissolved. Mix in the tea and lemon juice. Allow to cool to 98'F (37'C) and pour into brewing jar or demijon.
Add the sugar to the water in the jug, and allow to cool until 98'F (37'C). Add the yeast. Once the yeast has activated, pour the sugar/yeast mix into the the brewing jar.
Stop the top of the brewing jar with an airlock. Place in a warm place - 95-98'F (35-37'C) seems to work best. Leave until fermentation has completely finished. Bottle.
Every 6 months, rebottle the mead to remove sediment. If you want to speed the process up, you can use wine finings**.
Mead matures with age, as with any alchoholic drink. 2 years is the usual age given for the "perfect" drink, but honestly I've never let a batch last that long.

*The type of honey you use does matter. If you want a smooth, silky texture, you'll want to use a very pale honey. The darker the honey, the more bitter the mead. Honey contains natural antibiotics, so if you want to brew this for "medical research", you might want to pick a honey that has a high antibiotic content.
**Before synthetic wine finings existed, the traditional method of clearing (or clarifying) a wine or mead was to use raw egg whites. Simply add the whites to the mead, shake, and let settle. The physical particles should get collected up by the egg whites, leaving the mead clear. If you try this and end up with some seriously drunk salmonella, don't blame me! :)

Melomel - Mead with added fruit punch

Much the same as above, but add 1/2 lb. - 0.23 Kg - of soft fruit (or 1 lb. - 0.45 Kg - of hard fruit), when you boil. I usually leave the pulp in the liquid during fermentation, to get every last bit of flavor out. It seems to be a workable approach, but I've known the fermentation to get so rapid that it blows the airlock off the top of the brewing jar. If you're going to do this, put the container in a large bowl or on a towel.

If you want to get all technical, then mead with apples is Cyser.

Medieval/Reneissance Meads

These were all heavily laced with herbs and spices, at the time of fermentation. Each mead-maker used their own combination, so there's no real "standard" here. Mint, Orris Root, Cinnamon and Balsam were all popular additives in the 1700s.

The meads produced by the above recipies are DRY meads. ALL the sugar (or at least a gereat deal of it) is turned to alchohol. Sweet meads need about 5-6 lbs. (2.27-2.72 Kg) of honey, and you're strongly advised to monitor the specific gravity. Sack (mead so sweet it's nausiating) requires about 8 lbs. (3.63 Kg) of honey per gallon of water. If you get "mead" at a medieval banquet, it'll often be a very sweet mead or sack. Avoid these if you value your stomach.

Highly Experimental Variant!!!

I've not tried this much, and I've not got a recipe I'd consider to be really "working", but I'll throw it out anyway. The tea is mainly for the tannic acid, but tea isn't the best source of this. Acorns yield much more tannic acid. They ARE perfectly safe and edible (just make sure they ARE acorns!!) but the reason they never took off as a delicacy, even in stone-age times, is that the tannin is just too strong.

Too strong to eat, yes, but perfect for brewing. Shell just a few acorns, pulp them, and mix them into the water when you first boil it. The water will rapidly turn a yellowy-brown. the idea is to get this marginally stronger than the tea method, but not so strong that the solution is too acidic for the yeast. If you have a pH meter, you may want to do some experiments to see what the ideal concentration is. Remember, you're still adding the lemon juice, so your starting pH will be higher than the pH of the tannic acid solution.

Once you've got the balance right, use either recipe. If you're doing plain mead, you may want to add another lb. of honey. For the melomel, I'd suggest another 1/2 lb. of fruit. This is to offset the additional bitterness from having the extra tannic acid.

Actual Historic Recipe (Dated 1750)

This is a recipe I copied down from a combination cookbook/herbal remedy book. I have never tried this recipe, and it is NOT posted here as "known and safe". It's included more as a historical curiosity. And WHERE did they get those 60 gallon containers???


Take fair water 60 Gallons, Bay-leaves, Bawm, Hops, Ginger, Orrioe Roots bruised, Savory, Thyme, of each half a pound; let them scald in the liquor in a simmering heat, (but not to boil) for 2 hours: clear the liquor from the Ingredients, and to every three Gallons put one Gallon of Honey, boil them (but not too fast) scumming it very clean, so long as any will arise, especially the latteral Black Scum; cool the liquor, and put it into a Tub, where let it stand for some 2 days; put to it a Quart of good New Ale yest, stir them together, and let them rest a day or two to Work: Fleet off the yest, and stir it again, letting it rest another day: Scum off the yest again, and cover up the cask slightly; as it works over, fill it up with the same again; and when it has done working, stop it up slose, but have a Vent hole by the Bung, to give it Vent sometimes. Some clarify the Water and Honey when boil'd, with Whites of Eggs, Shells and all beaten together, the strain out and cool; and afterwards work it up, (to every two Gallons) with Whites of two Eggs, two spoonfulls of yest, beat all together, stirring it every hour; and the next day they add the Whites of four Eggs, and two spoonfulls of Wheat-Meal, beaten together, and so Tun it up, hanging it in a Bag, a little Cinnamon, Cloves, and Ginger bruised, which when it has done working, they stop close up.

(As I seriously doubt anyone'll be making the historic recipe soon, I'll leave out the metric conversions for it.)


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This is...
o Sick and Disgusting! We want more Iraq Articles! 5%
o Sick and Disgusting! I'm off to brew some. 23%
o Sick and disgusting! I'm off to start a brewery. 4%
o Sick and disgusting! Nothing beats a good lager. 4%
o Sick and disgusting! And so's lager! Stout's the only real brew! 7%
o Stout Shmout! Gimme Newcastle Brown Ale. 8%
o Aleski?? Vodka! Do the potatoski dance! 12%
o I don't drink. Except for medicinal purposes and on days with at least one vowel. 34%

Votes: 124
Results | Other Polls

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And Now For Something Completely Different - Mead! | 100 comments (92 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting article. (3.66 / 6) (#4)
by Hide The Hamster on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:28:17 PM EST

It makes me want to brew some then go kick some ogre ass. Lightning bolt!
Lightning bolt!
Lightning bolt!
Lightning bolt!

One question for the author: I've seen Chaucer's Mead before, never actually tasted it. Is that crap too?

Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

I've never tried that one (3.66 / 3) (#8)
by jd on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:57:50 PM EST

But I'd never trust a brew made by someone who's dead.

[ Parent ]
another question. (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Hide The Hamster on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:14:14 PM EST

In the first recipe you give, you specify that the mead should be 95-98F during the fermentation. What if such high temperatures cannot be kept? Are lower temperatures like 75F acceptable? How practical is it to store the fermenting mead at such temperatures? Seems awfully hot.

Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
Temperature (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by stonedest on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:24:20 PM EST

75F, or even 70F will work fine. Perhaps even a little lower. Higher temperatures will allow the yeast to do their business faster, though. Sometimes at lower temperatures, the yeast may get "stuck" (you'll need a hydrometer to determine this -- see my post above for a description of this). If this happens, you can pitch a bit more yeast, or add a bit more sugar to jump start the little guys.

I like to keep my mead at around 70F for the bulk of the fermentation, then I move it down to my basement (about 55-60F usually) for aging.

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

Huh? nt (none / 0) (#32)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:20:47 PM EST

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]
+1FP (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by kphrak on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:19:46 PM EST

Beautiful article. Now that metric conversions have been added in, it looks like it's ready to go to a vote. This one definitely makes my day...especially on a day when Another Site deliberately posts nothing but garbage to celebrate a calendar change.

Incidentally, I recall watching a scene "The 13th Warrior" (adapted from Michael Crichton's book "Eaters of the Dead"), in which the Muslim hero refuses to drink an alcoholic beverage (certainly mead) because "The Prophet forbids the drinking of fermented grapes or grain". At this, his Viking friend laughs and tells him it's OK to drink because it's made out of honey, at which he drinks it. I'm pretty sure that sharia would forbid it anyway since it violates the spirit of Muhammed's (sp?) law, but I guess it's possible, given a strictly legalistic interpretation. Anyone know more about this?

Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

Certainly an interesting story (5.00 / 4) (#11)
by jd on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:57:13 PM EST

Given the religious history of mead (which would fill a dozen articles, to cover properly), it is certainly plausable that, of all alchoholic drinks, mead is the most likely to get by most religious laws.

Brief rundown on mead's religious background...

  • The Greeks labelled it as the "Drink of the Gods", and considered it absolutely holy and divine. ("I'm just heading down to the pub to do some communing with Zeus." - now that's called making excuses! But it worked for them.)
  • The Irish were just about as in awe of it. It was a requirement that handfasting (and, later, marriage) was celebrated by drinking mead for a lunar month. From this, we derive the word "honeymoon".
  • Not to be outdone, the Anglican church decreed that mead was a Holy Drink, and it was required that mead was to be blessed by various Archbishops at the height of the year.
  • The Druids, a Celtic priesthood that seems to have formed in the later periods of the Celtic era, probably started off as mead-brewers who became powerful in consequence of knowing the secret of brewing.
  • The Romans concentrated on wines and their vinyards, but they were certainly aware both of mead and the ability to brew it in areas too cold for reliable vinyards and too distant for reliable wine shipments. It was likely used as a political bargaining chip in remoter Roman-occupied territories.

Here's where it gets interesting. The Muslims certainly knew of this drink. Mead is believed to have been invented around 4,000 BC, so it's considerably older than most existing cultures. It was one of the most widely-distributed, and certainly the best-known of alchoholic drinks. Yet the drinking of fermented honey is conspicuously absent from Muslim law.

To me, that's a sure-fire indicator that mead was deliberately and knowingly excluded from the list. Either it was too popular (and so, too dangerous) to clamp down on, or its religious background somehow merited it a special exemption.

Either way, the concept of a Muslim in Viking times drinking mead is certainly plausable, although I seriously doubt that Muslims today would find it as acceptable. Mead's grip on religion and world culture has all but vanished, the last remaining vestiges are barely-remembered echos.

[ Parent ]

Insofar as I know, mead is 'legal'.. (3.50 / 2) (#13)
by mordant1123 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:08:13 PM EST

I base this on a little historical evidence, linking through Ethiopian Tej.
(Ethiopia has a long-standing Muslim tradition, and Tej is a fermented honey beverage)

Lij Yasu was a contender for the Ethiopian throne after Emperor Menelik's 1907 stroke. He was well supported by a significant body of Mohammedan chieftans, and (it was feared) intended to make a Muslim state of Ethiopia. In a paper on the Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie I, this is written of him:

Lij Yasu would prove to be a poor choice for the throne of Ethiopia. He was more interested in the slave trade and the Muslim religion than his own country's affairs. While Lij Tafari had spent a good deal of his upbringing reading books, Lij Yasu spent it drinking tej, a native Ethiopian drink.

Given that the support that Lij Tafari garnered, I think it reasonable to postulate that (at the very least) there are Muslim populations which find the consumption of fermented-honey beverages to be acceptable.

"There is no intellient opposition to white nationalism." - Johnny Walker
[ Parent ]

Haile Selassie was a Christian (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by IHCOYC on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:40:42 PM EST

As far as I know, Haile Selassie was a Coptic Christian. Lij Yasu, by contrast, had apparently converted to Islam.
The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.[ Parent ]
The comment wasn't WRT Selassie,just the paper(nt) (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by mordant1123 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:23:12 PM EST

"There is no intellient opposition to white nationalism." - Johnny Walker
[ Parent ]
Yes and No.. (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by elzubeir on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:32:54 PM EST

It's a gray line actually. Fermentated drinks in themselves are not forbidden, but if they are enough to make you drunk they are not. In other words, Islam specifies it not by the content but by the effect.. I am paraphrasing (poorly): Whatever makes one lose their mind. You can take that to mean large amounts of chocolate.. or all the way to heroin. Whatever. But, it is true that in Muslim communities certain fermented drinks are acceptable (I know in my own culture, we ferment dates, from which wines are made.. but they drink it before it is completely fermented..). Kind of, half-way through. I would say, just drink and be jolly dammit ;)

[ Parent ]
That's what I was taught (none / 0) (#54)
by Gully Foyle on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 08:23:42 AM EST

You can't pray successfully if your mind is clouded by psychoactives.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Explains a lot (none / 0) (#73)
by jd on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:49:34 PM EST

CofE is very big on large quantities of alchohol... (Looks suspiciously at them)

[ Parent ]
Any religious law scholars here? (3.00 / 2) (#22)
by squigly on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:38:19 PM EST

but I guess it's possible, given a strictly legalistic interpretation.

I've always wondered this.  I'm not quite sure where the consumption of alcohol is banned in Muslim law though.  

If the law is the word of Allah, I guess it must logically have no exceptions unless they were intended, for Allah wouldn't make a mistake.  If Mead is excluded, then obviously that was intentional.  If it is the work of man, then clearly it is imperfect, and can be said to cover things that are not explicitely included.

I did hear that a Cider pub somwhere in Shropshire(England) that does very good business with the local Muslim population.

[ Parent ]

Do a search on online koran/quran (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by Anonymous Hiro on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:35:30 PM EST

So far it seems to be intoxicants in general are to be shunned/avoided/eschewed.

Look for intox on the following page: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/005.qmt.html

Or search:
http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/k/koran/koran-idx?type=simple&q1=intox&size =First+100


[ Parent ]

the question everyone on kuro5hin is dying to know (2.42 / 7) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:45:38 PM EST

do they brew mead in iraq?

and if so, how can this be used prove that donald rumsfled is a nincompoop?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

irrelevant. no proof is required [n/t] (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by j1mmy on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:15:55 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Interesting story (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by hershmire on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:48:17 PM EST

But, what is a brewing jar, and where can I get one cheaply online? And how do I know when the mead is done fermenting?
FIXME: Insert quote about procrastination
Fermentation (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by stonedest on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:18:59 PM EST

Not sure about getting brewing supplies online (perhaps a google for brewing supplies), but I can help you out with the fermenting bit.

A few days after the initial yeast addition (called "pitching" the yeast), the yeast will have greatly multiplied and will be swimming all around inside your jar. It will bubble violently as the sugar from the honey is transformed into aclohol and CO2. Some time after, the yeast will settle down into a thick layer on the bottom of the jar, and fermentation will be continuing, but at a much slower pace.

You can't really tell if the mead is fermenting or not during this period of lessened activity. Bubbles will esacpe slowly from the fermentation lock (a one-way valve on top of your fermentation device) for a very long time, and you really need to pick a time to stop fermentation. The best way to do this is with a device called a hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of a liquid. Water has a specific gravity of 1.0 (or fairly close to it). When you initially add all the sugar to your brew, you increase the specific gravity. As you ferment, the specific gravity will gradually lower as the sugar is eaten by the yeast. So, when you first put your mead into the fermentation container, take a hydrometer reading. As the fermentation looks like it is beginning to stop, start taking readings every few days. Eventualy, the specific gravity will level out. I like to stop fermentation when the specific gravity is constant for about a week and a half.

Any brewing supplier will have a hydrometer. My local one charges about $15 if I remember correctly, and the device comes with full instructions, including how to determine the alcohol content (% by volume) of your brew. Another handy device I like to have is called a "thief" (or a wine thief or something like that). It is a long tube with a one way valve on the bottom, just thick enough for a hydrometer to fit in. You put the thief into your brew, and can easily extract a sample with which to take a hydrometer reading, without disturbing the rest of the brew. When you take the reading, you press the valve on the bottom of the thief and it is cleanly placed back in the fermentation vessel.

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

Jars (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by epepke on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:54:20 PM EST

For small batches, a 1 gallon glass jug, normally distributed with apple juice, works fine. Plus you can make hard cider with the juice. Don't get any apple juice with potassium sorbate, as it will inhibit the yeast.

For large batches, the 5-gallon glass carboy is the preferred container. You can get these at brewing supply companies. There used to be a chain called Waccamaw that sold them really cheap, but they've gone out of business. You can occasionally find them at Pier 1 or The Container Store.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
jars (none / 0) (#75)
by Skippysaurus on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 06:48:35 PM EST

One gallon glass jars work fine, but donen't make the mistake I made the first time I tried it.

I'd been told that its a good idea to boil the mead to kill the yeast if you want to drink it before the fermentation stops. I got eager and decided to try it, so I grabbed the jar and put it directly on the stove burner and turned on the stove. (It was late and I was stupid, I know.)

End result, I had a gallon of sticky mead in the stove and all over the floor. I also had to move out of that apartment two days later. It took me three hours to tear the stove apart as far as I could to clean it, and another hour to get the floor clean.

[ Parent ]

beware hot stuff (none / 0) (#89)
by horslin on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 02:40:02 PM EST

I once poured some warm mead into a carboy with some cold fruit in it, and had the carboy crack... suprisingly it didn't leak, but I don't use that carboy anymore.
"To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die one, an achievement."
[ Parent ]
The best mead... (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by bsdbigot on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:12:18 PM EST

Is not made in your kitchen. You can buy it from my ancestral home county, a little company named Bunratty. They do export to the US, as well - check with your local beverage distributor.
<:) L
95-98'F ???? (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by bored on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:43:57 PM EST

Isn't that a little warm? I thought most of those little yeasties started to produce strange flavors if the temp got to high (above ~78)? Granted higher temps will probably speed along the fermentation process. Still seems to me a little longer wait for a better mead would be a worth while trade off.

BTW: I looked into making my own mead a while back and I read somewhere that the real trick to making good mead is to make a bunch of diffrent batches then mix them together at at some point in ways that are pleasant because by themselves they rarely are just right. Some are too sweet some not sweet enough etc.. Bascially by mixing them up after they are all done you can hide some of the individual batches problems.

Perhaps (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by stonedest on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:51:57 PM EST

I certainly don't make mead at temps that high, not to say it can't be done.

Mixing batches is something I've read about and never tried. Seems like a bit too much work to be mixing a bunch of 5 gallon batches. I just like to add some sugar and pitch some more yeast, adding another stage of fermentation. Similar results, no messy mixing. You could even add 3 or more stages if you felt so inclined.

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

On blending vs single malt. (none / 0) (#52)
by Biff Cool on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:22:13 AM EST

I'd like to point out that mixing batches of mead as you describe it is similar to the concept of blended scotch. A blended scotch (like Dewars) is a blend of a number of different batches of scotch, whereas a single malt (like Oban) is the product of just one run. The idea being a single batch of scotch will have a flavor very distinctive of that batch, whereas blending it will dull the intricacies, but make a more generally appealing taste. So assuming the principles hold with mead, if you refine the process you'll be able to create a much more interesting mead by not blending it than you'd be able to through blending, but obviously with a higher rate of error at the start. That said I think I should point out that I've never made nor had mead so I'm only assuming the general principle holds true.

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler

[ Parent ]
Mmmm scotch (none / 0) (#63)
by stonedest on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 12:21:19 PM EST

I just wanted to point out that not all blended scothces are second-rate. Some stillmen use their experience to produce top tier blended scotches. With a single malt, you are fairly limited in the range of flavours you can produce. Stillmen are people who work in a distillery, and stand right by the still as the pre-scotch comes out, tasting it as it goes by. They determine which part of the spirit will be their top product and which part they will sell to someone else who makes cheap well scotch.

The option of blended scotches gives these stillmen the opportunity to use their years of tasting to combine the best parts of the best malts to create a scotch that is in many ways is better than a single malt. Purity aside, they can infuse a much wider range of flavours and effects by using multiple grains, often producing a better scotch. Now before you scoff at me, let me take a particular example I'm sure you are familiar with. Jonny Walker has red label (pretty cheap, raunchy blended), black label (not a horrible blended), green label (their most popular single malt, not great), gold label (a much better single malt, but much more expensive, aged 18 years I believe), and their most expensive (at least commonly available)? The blue label, a blended scotch aged 25 years. Now I can't comment as to how good it is because most places charge more than $150 for a bottle, and that's a bit out of my price range, but I doubt they would keep making it unless they kept selling it.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#68)
by Biff Cool on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:44:34 PM EST

I guess I always assumed that Blue label was a single malt. There goes my my attempts to be a single-malt bigot. For what it's worth even a regular blended scotch has it's place in my opinion. Sometimes you just want a nice mellow glass of Johnny Walker vs. something stiffer that you'd find in a single malt.

Either way, you're of course right it makes sense that there would be people putting the effort into blending to make it an art as opposed to just using it to hide the flaws.

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler

[ Parent ]
Right on! (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by stonedest on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:48:38 PM EST

Mead is certainly a tasty drink! Its really quite sad to see how forgotten it has become, being the oldest known alcoholic beverage. Especially since every person who's tried my mead has liked it. I really don't understand why mead is not more popular. The drink even comes with a cool name for when you and your friends get together and drink a bunch of it -- a meading =] (Seriously... just remember to drink a bunch of water before you go to sleep, nothing worse than a mead hangover, must be all the sweetness)

I have made several batches, but I've been sticking to regular mead since my one attempt at melomel was met with disastrous results. The first batch I made was very good (probably my second best). After an initial fermentation of about 2 and a half months, I let it age in my basement for about 6 months. When I finally bottled the 5 gallons, it was gone in 2 weeks. I've now found I like the results much better if I leave it to age for about 2 years or so, with two stages of fermentation. To do this, ferment your mead to completion, but instead of bottling or aging, add another round of honey, and pitch some more yeast. This will build complex flavors into your mead, and will allow you to reach higher alcohol percentages. If you want to play around with multiple stages like this, be sure and give your mead enough time to age (at least a year) to fully appreciate it. Using this technique I have been able to produce a mead with a beginning specific gravity of up around 1.15 and a alcohol content of about 18% : )

Yes, I know, this is a long time to wait. You don't have to wait this long if you don't want to. But, having 8 or 9 batches aging for 2 years each can keep you with a fairly steady supply if you time things properly.

Just a couple notes on ingredients, I highly suggest you use unfiltered raw honey. It may be more expensive, but it is vastly superior honey. Your yeast will thank your for it. Experiment with different types of honey, they will give your mead different subtle flavours. I have never personally used champagne yeast, I stick to sweet mead yeast if I can find it, else some kind of wine yeast. I've also never tried adding lemon juice, black tea, or sugar. May I ask why you add sugar? Honey is basically pure sugar... why wouldn't you just add an additional 4-5TBSP of honey? Either way, if you decide to use sugar, unrefined cane sugar (called turbinado I believe, one brand is "Sugar in the Raw") will be your best bet.

Mead on, mead on!!

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt

right on (none / 0) (#96)
by senorian on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 12:06:04 PM EST

Tibetan chang is supposed to be a relatively instant barley/millett wine that at its best tastes like rheisling. Any one have experience making it. One site with limited info: www.snowcrest.net/ksnow/losar.html

[ Parent ]
Mead makes me Horny (3.33 / 3) (#28)
by chupacabra on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:30:41 PM EST

My step daughter makes the best mead I have ever tasted. The old fashioned way with almost your recipe.

Too many skeletons in other peoples closets..

Where did that baby goat go?

Odd. (none / 0) (#37)
by woem on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:07:25 PM EST

You refer to mead making you horny, then immediately refer to your stepdaughter. Faux pas? I think not. =P
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
Does that solve a mystery? (none / 0) (#55)
by Gully Foyle on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 08:28:54 AM EST

The mysterious goatsucking chupacabras is actually Zeus in disguise!

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

High-temp Melomel (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by decrocher on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 06:45:04 PM EST

When I was home from Thanksgiving, during my first year in college, I made an apple melomel. My parents wouldn't have been too happy to find it (me being underage at the time), so I had to be a little creative. I took an old nalgene and drilled a hole in the top for one those cheap plastic airlocks. A bit of bio honey and apple juice, with some champaign yeast, and the mead was essentially finished. Placed in the back of a filing cabinet, no one was the wiser. I was impatient, though. I placed the nalgene in a pot of stove-warmed water, to speed the fermentation. When I actually drank it, months later (with some beer that I cooked up in the dorm kitchen one late evening, another good story), it tasted _terrible_. But with that champaign yeast, what a kick!

A few observations (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by Maurkov on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:17:44 PM EST

Could you list the commercial meads you've tried? I'm surprised you can dismiss them all.

As a veteran homebrewer I'd like to offer some observations.

First, I make mine with a less honey. 13 lbs in 5 gallons is fine, and even then I get some residual sweetness. I looked up some sack mead recipes, and none went as high as 5 lbs/gallon, let alone the 8 you suggest. Second, the fermentation temperature should be around 70'F (21'C). High temperature fermentation may be faster, but the yeast will create a lot of higher "fusel" alcohols, which are unpleasantly hot on the pallet and induce hellish hangovers. Sufficient aging helps, but why not limit their formation in the first place? Third, to boil or not to boil is a significant question. I boil the honey, but just barely (while skimming off the cauterized proteins) in order to kill the wild yeasts but preserve as much of the honey's aromatics as possible.

Meads are prone to stuck fermentation. When you pitch, the high sugar content can shock the yeast. I've seen recepes where half the honey is added after fermentation is established. The sugar content can also cause the yeasts to enter their anaerobic cycle before they've had a chance to reproduce sufficiently. Aerating when you pitch the yeast and again 12 hours later should help. Honey doesn't have all the nutrients yeast need to thrive, so many recipes call for yeast nutrient. You already mentioned using a Champaign or mead yeast that will tolerate the high alcohol content of a nearly finished product.

For the novice, brewing beer is much faster and easier. Once you grasp the fundamentals, though, go for it. Mead is fantastic.


Aerating? (none / 0) (#49)
by Wobbly Bob on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:41:01 AM EST

Aerating when you pitch the yeast and again 12 hours later should help.

Isn't that kind of risky? It's my understanding that once yeast is added there should be as little splashing as possible, since oxygen can combine with the alcohol to give the wine or beer a "cidery" taste.

I suppose in twelve hours the yeast would still be in aerobic respiration, and there wouldn't be any alcohol, but how long of a wait is too long? A day?

Helping ugly people have sex since 1990!
[ Parent ]

Yeah, I wouldn't (none / 0) (#62)
by stonedest on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:52:44 AM EST

I don't think aerating is such a good idea after pitching. Although I don't know a technical reason behind it, the man I learned from was very adamant about not moving your fermentation vessel after pitching, telling me to much agitation would surely ruin my batch.

Well, I just found a nice page to explain some of the finer points of aeration and even learned a bit.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

Good question (none / 0) (#65)
by Maurkov on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:15:34 PM EST

Even 24 hours after pitching, my mead batches have barely started, so I'm not concerned. If your batches are already roiling at 12, it's probably too late but then it probably wasn't necessary. After googling, I saw lots of people emphasizing a thorough aeration once the must dropped below 80'F (27'C), but a few recommend post-pitch aerations as well. Lemons and acid blend are powerful antioxidants so if you use them you've got some protection. I've had more trouble with stuck fermentation than off flavors, so my efforts have been to reduce the latter.

While researching, my best find was this list and archive.


[ Parent ]
Beer vs. Wine (none / 0) (#81)
by horslin on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 08:48:01 AM EST

My father used to make beer, and I've made wines, and I would have to say that making wine is much easier then making beer... there's no boiling, and if you start from grape juice, there's nothing to add except for yeast.
"To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die one, an achievement."
[ Parent ]
Mead Making Blog (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by bcelli on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:47:49 PM EST

For those interested in this topic, I recently started a blog about mead making:


I haven't been at it too long, but there is a detailed recipe up there along with links to places you can buy ingredients and equipment online.

A couple of points (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by HiroProtagonist on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:50:26 PM EST

Last year some friends and I managed to produce approximately 100 Litres of mead. We have managed to drink only about 20 litres of it thus far.

We used a similar recipe to that above, the differences being the use of unpasteurised honey straight from the market (still contains the various antibiotics that prevent bacteria from competing with yeast for the sugar), and the addition of cloves and cinnamon.

I have two points to make, without which you will end up with a killer hangover:

1. Before you add the yeast, bring the water/honey mixture to about 80 degrees C ( to where bubbles are just starting to appear ), and keep skimming off scum that forms on the surface (this forms nasty turpentine-like compounds if you don't remove it), until no more arises. This can take a long time (2 hours)

2. Some recipes will suggest that you can make mead with no added yeast whatsoever. This is in fact true, but the resultant mead has very strange effects ( makes one very happy, seems to be a mild aphrodisiac, feels like an anaesthetic ). You probably want to avoid this.

Never understood this. (none / 0) (#38)
by woem on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:14:02 PM EST

As a (more-or-less) non-drinker, I've never understood how one chemical (ethanol) can give so many different end-results. I've heard of different effects of vodka, beer, mixing the two, and lots of other combinations or species. Now I hear about effects that seem different from the standard alcohol effects altogether with the no-yeast mead. What gives?
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
n/t Set and Setting among other factors (none / 0) (#39)
by prolixity on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:31:10 PM EST

[ Parent ]
low alcohol content means... (none / 0) (#40)
by ph0rk on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:40:05 PM EST

lots of other crap.  the wacky effects from the no yeast method are because it takes cultures from the air (some bourbon distillers used to do this)  also known as 'wild yeast'.

Different yeasts add different things to the mix as well as alcohol, so technically it isn't the ethanol giving different effects here, its the other 90-95% of the beverage.

[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Like? (none / 0) (#45)
by woem on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:03:24 AM EST

What sort of other things get added that are psychoactive? Methanol? Propanol(!)? Anyone know?
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
Not sure (none / 0) (#47)
by RyoCokey on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:30:06 AM EST

There a remarkable number of chemicals which cause nerve malfunction in humans. I believe all the alcohols have similiar effects, although if you actually did have a drink with high methanol, you'd probably poison yourself.

Here's a related link. If you use "wild yeast" there's no telling what kind of bacteria and/or yeast is growing in there.

"Some things do not change. The best way to shock and awe an enemy is still to kill him." - Ralph Peters
[ Parent ]
Beyond even that (2.00 / 1) (#50)
by Biff Cool on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:02:08 AM EST

The effects of alcohol on most people are very circustance dependant. What you've eaten, how much you've eaten, the weather, your general mood when you started drinking, all come into play as to how drunk you're going to get, and what kind of drunk you're going end up. There's not really a table of "if this then this" kind of thing that you can do for drinking because the effects of alcohol are very circumstantial. That said and out there, I'd just like to say for the record that I'm drunk right now.

My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler

[ Parent ]
Yeah. (none / 0) (#77)
by woem on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 02:41:04 AM EST

I'm aware of how set/setting affects any psychoactive chemical, and this has been covered.
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
No methanol (none / 0) (#90)
by epepke on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 04:47:30 PM EST

There aren't any known biological processes that produce methanol. Methanol is usually made by burning wood.

The extra ingredients consist mainly of esters and fusil alcohols. Of course, bacterial infection can also produce lactic and acetic acids.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
If you don't mind (none / 0) (#93)
by woem on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 04:06:36 AM EST

A quick question from an ignoramus: what are fusil alcohols?
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
Amyl alcohols [n/t] (none / 0) (#95)
by epepke on Sat Apr 05, 2003 at 02:51:35 AM EST

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Placebo effect. (none / 0) (#97)
by Legato Bluesummers on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 04:52:18 PM EST

--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]
hell yeah..... (none / 0) (#43)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 12:38:17 AM EST

that yeastless mead seems to be a better idea...no frigen wonder the greeks were so sexual.

[ Parent ]
Nectar of the Gods (4.66 / 3) (#35)
by Coram on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 08:27:50 PM EST

If you think about the saga of fornication, sodomy and bestiality that is Greek mythology, you may interpret "nectar of the gods" to be not entirely complimentary but perhaps still quite accurate.

judo ergo sum
Temperature (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 08:56:43 PM EST

This is probably a really stupid question, but aside from overclocking a dual Athlon and putting the jar inside the computer case, how do you get a constant well-defined temperature?

Actually, I'm liking the Athlon idea . . . but what's the *standard* way?

Airing Cupboard? (none / 0) (#53)
by Kruador on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:25:44 AM EST

In Britain*, it's common for the hot water boiler and/or tank to be kept inside a cupboard somewhere in the house. The temperature in this cupboard is usually more-or-less constant, a few degrees cooler than the water tank. The difference will depend on how well insulated your boiler and/or hot water tank is/are.

It's common for the cupboard to contain a few slatted shelves for placing clothes that have been washed (or have become damp) on.

For some strange reason, my family refer to this cupboard as an 'airing cupboard'.

The bottom of this cupboard is quite good for brewing; my mother uses hers (occasionally) for brewing wines.


* At least where I live (south-east England) it is.

[ Parent ]

I'm from the north east (none / 0) (#56)
by werner on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 08:34:47 AM EST

and we call 'em airing cupboards, too.

[ Parent ]
Airing Cupboard (none / 0) (#71)
by jd on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:21:54 PM EST

This is a fairly olde-Englishy term. I'm 80% sure you'll even find Enid Blyton uses it.

Just looking at how the trms are used, I'd say that the older-generations (50+ years) tended to regard anything where storage is predominantly on horizontal shelving as a "cupboard", unless it's walk-in AND for food, in which case it's a pantry.

An airing cupboard is any cupboard designed to air things out (usu. dry them, remove musty smells, etc) by creating a sustained vertical air current, usu. by warming the air.

Because you've circulating air currents, it's excellent for clothes storage. Because it's dark and dry-warm, it's also brilliant for home-brewing.

[ Parent ]

Beware explosive fermentation! (none / 0) (#98)
by theanorak on Thu Apr 10, 2003 at 10:29:29 AM EST

One thing to watch out for if you're using an airing cupboard for both its useful purposes (drying towels/laundry & brewing) is if your fermentation gets over-excited and starts to leak through the airlock, you're going to have quite a few yeasty-smelling towels/clothes to wash! Best bet is to put at least one layer of "junk towels" beneath the demijohn or whatever. My folks brewed wine at home in the airing cupboard. We also kept bathroom towels in there, so it was used every day, but I still remember plenty of "oh, damn, there's wine everywhere" moments. Still, worth it in the end...
rants, raves, photographs
[ Parent ]
Was going to ask the same thing... (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by DDS3 on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 12:27:07 PM EST

Now then, many Americans have their hot water heater in their garage would would not be a good place to keep your brew. What other options exist?

[ Parent ]
Fermenting temp. (none / 0) (#84)
by geigertube on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 10:09:20 AM EST

I went out and bought a old chest freezer for $30, and a inline thermostat for $50. Keeps 5 carboys at a nice 60degF. Thats kind of extreme though, most people just keep it in a basement.

[ Parent ]
A couple of things I have done (none / 0) (#87)
by hatshepsut on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 01:29:41 PM EST

Since the liquid is quite high temp when you start, you can wrap a blanket around the carboy to reduce cooling. I also once used an electric blanket at a very low setting (I was having heating problems in my apartment at the time, and didn't want to kill the yeast).

I did this with beer (not mead), but the yeast should respond the same way. Note: with the electric blanket method, you have to monitor the temp pretty carefully or you can overheat the carboy and kill your yeast. The upside is, if you are careful with it, you can complete (beer) brewing in under 10 days.


[ Parent ]

I *like* commercial mead. (none / 0) (#41)
by NFW on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:46:50 PM EST

I've had two or three brands of commercial mead and liked them all. How is homebrew mead different? More sweet? Less sweet? Taste more like honey? Less like honey? Aftertaste? What?

Got birds?

Commercial Meads (none / 0) (#60)
by stonedest on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:41:32 AM EST

There are certainly some fine commercial meads. Many commercial meads are rather dry and wine-like, and this does not go over well with many people. When you are referring to meads and you use the term 'sweet', it generally means it has more honey flavor as well, since honey is the majority of the source of sugar. The drier meads can have very little honey flavor, be rather pungent with alcohol and be similar in characteristic to dry red wines (which are harder for most people to like). I once had one commercial mead which had a very unpleasant yeasty aftertaste... I'm not sure if it was a bad batch, or what, but I did not enjoy it. One recent commercial mead I have tried and liked very much was Havill's from New Zealand.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]
umm...I guess the writer never heard of..... (none / 0) (#42)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 12:34:56 AM EST

Egyptian beer.

the Ancient Egyptians made beer LONG before the greeks were even pondering how to carve marble.

Well, it depends (none / 0) (#44)
by stonedest on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 12:56:27 AM EST

It really depends on what you define as beer. If you want expand the term to include 'some kinda alcoholic beverage', then yes, the Egyptians made beer. If you look at any beer made today, it is composed of four basic ingredients: barley, water, hops, yeast. The ingredient the Egyptians did not have was hops, which was not added to 'beers' until sometime around 1000AD. So the drink beer as we know it did not exist until sometime around then. Here is a nice timeline of beer history.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]
reguardless, it was still alcohol (none / 0) (#67)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:41:02 PM EST

so what ever you want to call it, the egyptians had it first.

[ Parent ]
Sumer (none / 0) (#78)
by epepke on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 03:40:24 AM EST

Some of the oldest writings known are recipes for beer.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
I'm going to disagree (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by jd on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 11:58:42 AM EST

No, not with the comment, but with Dawkins. I've worked with plenty of people I'd GLADLY have swapped for a pigeon.

[ Parent ]
Mead ,,, (none / 0) (#46)
by jms on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:44:39 AM EST

I've had a great deal of success at mead-making also.  

I use:

o Honey
o Water hardened with Burton Water Salts
o Yeast nutrients
o Sherry yeast (Try it!!!)

The real trick to any sort of homebrewing is ensuring that the entire process is kept absolutely sterile from beginning to end.  You clean the entire kitchen before you even begin.  You wipe down every surface.  You clean everything that will come in contact with the mead over and over again with dilute iodine.  You keep your hands scrubbed and clean.  You make it a freaking OBSESSION to not let a single bacterium get into your mead.  

My big trick is the sherry yeast.  Use it instead of mead yeast or champaign yeast, and you'll get an incredibly tasty mead.  It'll be just as dry, but not as bitter.   I once did an experiment, making 6 batches of yeast using 6 different types of yeast.  The one made with sherry yeast was amazing.  I switched over to using sherry yeast exclusively.  

It's been a while since I brewed.  I used to use a Wyeast sherry yeast, but I don't see it in the current Wyeast catalog, so I don't know if that particular strain is still available.  I should probably try to reculture it before I lose it.  Actually, now I'm slightly alarmed.  I had no idea that my favorite yeast had been discontinued.

BTW, mead can age for a very long time.  It starts tasting really good after about a year, and after a decade it starts to become quite remarkable.  I have about 12 beer-bottles left of a 1992 mead, and it just gets better and better each time I open a bottle.  That was a particularly successful batch.

Mead making, to me, is far more rewarding then beer making.  It's something rare and unusual, and for those with ulterior motives, consider this.  Homebrew beer is more often appreciated and enjoyed by men.  

Women love mead!

Mead yeasts (none / 0) (#59)
by gruk on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:35:15 AM EST

My most recent batch used some unspecified "strong wine" yeast, but in the past I've found bread yeast to be most excellent.

[ Parent ]
serious? (none / 0) (#88)
by horslin on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 02:34:22 PM EST

How much alcohol did you end up with the bread yeast? I can't imagine it being good... my only experience with bread yeast involved some rather raunch cider... I had much better experience with the natural yeasts in my cider. I guess it varies...
"To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die one, an achievement."
[ Parent ]
Bread yeast and alcohol content (none / 0) (#99)
by gruk on Mon Apr 14, 2003 at 10:36:43 AM EST

From memory, about 12%. Depending on wine yeast, you can get it up to 15-20% but since I actually prefer a slightly sweet lower alcohol content...

[ Parent ]
Oh a funny thought (5.00 / 3) (#48)
by the77x42 on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:32:23 AM EST

Now that you have this article on the front page of kuro5hin, I'm getting a hilarious mental image of geeks at a LAN party playing Age of Empires dressed up like Vikings and getting tanked on mead.

And for that, I thank you. :)

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Mead-swilling Vikings (5.00 / 3) (#57)
by djeaux on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 09:01:27 AM EST

... shouting "spam! spam! spam!"

"Obviously, I'm not an IBM computer any more than I'm an ashtray." (Bob Dylan)
[ Parent ]

I made mead three years ago (none / 0) (#51)
by Wobbly Bob on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:06:26 AM EST

The recipe I used was almost the same as the first one listed, except I didn't use tea or sugar. It was really good after two months, but by the four-month mark it was infected. It was still drinkable, but it was the kind of beverage you save for company you don't like.

The biggest advantage for me was the relatively low cost. I currently live in a city, so I don't have easy access to pesticide-free dandelions, and buying several pounds of fruit to make one gallon of wine is out of the question.

I had actually forgotten about my mead-making experience. I guess I'll go buy some honey. Has anyone here tried making mead with tannin instead of tea? How much tannin would a person use?

Helping ugly people have sex since 1990!

Bad after 4 months? (none / 0) (#58)
by stonedest on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:30:14 AM EST

My guess is that conditions were not kept as sanitary as possible. There was some microbe or bacteria which was sitting around on a piece of your brewing equipment, small in numbers to begin with. This is why it tasted good after a couple months. But these little organisms found the perfect home in your brew, and soon begin multiplying and tainting your work. As someone below mentioned, one of the biggest tricks to any homebrewing venture is keeping your equipment sanitized. Your local homebrew supply shop will have excellent chemical sanitizers. Simply put a capful in your 5 gallon container, fill with warm water, let sit for a couple minutes and pour out. The small amount of bubbles and film left over will ensure sanitation, so do not rinse with water. If you don't want to fork over the money for chemical sanitizer, normal bleach will work fine as well (1 ounce per gallon), but you will need to let everything sit for about 20 minutes before use. Whatever sanitation agent you use, just remember: sanitizing every piece of your equipment that comes in contact with your precious brew is essential to good homebrewing! Even when you take a little out for a sample!

I've never added tannins to mead, but I'm sure that could produce some pleasant results. For wine making, I hear that about 1 tsp per 5 gallon batch does the trick, but since grapes produce their own tannins, you might want to up that to 1 TBSP or so. Adding tannins probably means you're going to want to let it age longer (at least a year).
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt
[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 0) (#80)
by Wobbly Bob on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 08:43:36 AM EST

My guess is that conditions were not kept as sanitary as possible.

I think you're right. I had been brewing for about two years at the time, and I was getting a little cocky. Right around the same time I made a batch of raunchy brown ale. Easily the worst beer I ever had in my life.

Helping ugly people have sex since 1990!
[ Parent ]

Tannin (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by jholder on Thu Apr 24, 2003 at 03:55:47 PM EST

Has anyone here tried making mead with tannin instead of tea? How much tannin would a person use?

Actually, I have. I used 1 tsp. of powdered grape tannin for a 4 gallon batch, and that was just right. I also used honey I harvested from a friend's hive, some acid blend (1 tbsp) and a little yeast energizer. For that one, I used a simple wine yeast. Currently I am preferring Lalvin KIV-1116 Dry Yeast as a mead yeast.

It took about a year and a half for the tannin to mellow, but the mouthfeel is very nice.

[ Parent ]
Set us up the Bawm..? (none / 0) (#61)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:47:07 AM EST

... Bay-leaves, Bawm, Hops, Ginger, ..

And just what the devil is Bawm? Even Google doesn't know.

Not that I have any 60 Gallon cisterns just lying about...



Probably balm (none / 0) (#91)
by epepke on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 04:49:47 PM EST

It's an herb of the mint family with a lemony taste.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Bawm is (none / 0) (#66)
by arachnis on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:21:47 PM EST

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/balofg05.html an herb and stuff.

Since a lot of people have asked... (none / 0) (#69)
by jd on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:11:37 PM EST

Ok, I can't remember them all, but here is a selection of commercial meads I have tried:

  • Elizabethan Mead (dark and a great superglue alternative)
  • Christmas Mead (where's the taste?)
  • English Mead (same!)
  • Lindesfarne Mead (4/10)
  • Irish Mead (5/10)
  • Norfolk Mead (another dark brew, better than Elizabethan but still more useful as a glue than a drink)

The temperature, as others have noted, is to stop the yeast stalling. You can ferment just fine at 65'F, but I really wouldn't advise less than this, and at 65'F you really need to pay closer attention than I care to.

Also, the rate of fermentation will alter the result. Fast fermentation, I've found, will often produce a slightly silkier texture. I'm going to guess that this is a function of the ratio of the alchohol produced to any other by-products.

In case it's not been mentioned elsewhere... (none / 0) (#70)
by jd on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:13:12 PM EST

Mead HQ aught to get an honorable mention in this discussion.

Almost forgot. Why the sugar. (none / 0) (#72)
by jd on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:31:11 PM EST

The sugar is used to kick-start the yeast. Instead of putting dry (or even liquid) yeast straight into the brewing jar, I've found that the most reliable method is to create a "starter kit" for th yeast.

That way, when you pour the yeast into the brewing jar, it's already started. You'll know this because the jug (or whatever you've used to put the starter in) will be foaming and spitting like a rabid wolf.

Pouring the rabid wolf-yeast into the jar will give you instant results. It's already fired up, it's already active, it's -hungry-, and it's just seen a Very Large quantity of sugar, dead ahead.

Pouring the yeast in directly will certainly work. I've done that plenty of times. But without knowing if the yeast is any good or not, and without being able to see anything observable for perhaps a day or two, if you're anything like me, you're about ready to scream at the yeast to wake the zork up by the time anything happens.

The starter kit is 60% for your own sanity (also prevents hair-loss due to stress), 30% for a quicker starting time and 10% to identify bad yeast quickly.

Starter (none / 0) (#76)
by epepke on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 07:25:41 PM EST

I've found powdered dry light malt extract to be the best kind of sugar for making a starter. Maltose is the only sugar that yeast can use directly. For all other sugars, the yeast has to emit enzymes into the surrounding fluid and wait for it to convert the sugars into maltose.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
purists (none / 0) (#83)
by horslin on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 09:33:18 AM EST

Mead purists would scoff at the idea of using sugar for a starter... I've always used a bit of honey water myself, but sugar would work too.
"To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die one, an achievement."
[ Parent ]
Older recipe from Brittany (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by o reor on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 04:01:38 AM EST

Some older recipes for mead were in use in Brittany (western peninsula in France) until 20 years ago. They actually involved putting the whole honeycombs into the broth. This gave the beverage a strong taste of bee wax (very strange, but not bad at all). Fruit would also be added to the preparation, like blackberry, raspberry, apples, in order to give it various flavours.

But the most interesting part of this is that taking a piss with mead, at some point, would cause a person to fall on his/her back. Why on the back ? Well, because reportedly, the honey combs still contained bee larvae, which would get processed along with the honey (look, Ma ! Added proteins ! :) and the bodies of which contains -- yes, venom. Venom which had the reputation to attack the cerebellum of the inebriated person. Hence the backwards collapse.

I do not know whether this is scientifically likely or proved, or whether this typical attack on the nerve system might rather be due to byproducts of the fermentation (somebody mentionned turpentine).

Brittany is still famous for its mead, although the recipe has turned a bit more kosher these days : no more bee worms. Enjoy the drink though, however moderately.

Some other things (none / 0) (#82)
by horslin on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 09:29:32 AM EST

Even for a beginner, I would recommend learning how to use a hydrometer. It's pretty easy and will certainly help you get a grasp on much sugars to start off with.

However, in my mead making experience, the most important factors are patience, sanitation and quality ingridients.

If you've got a good clean workspace, and you measure your specific gravity (or Brix, see hydrometer page) and let your mead age at least year before you start drinking it, it should produce a decent mead, assuming you follow proper guidelines.

Other topic for heated debate is the idea of boiling vs. pasteurizing the must (honey-water mixture.) Personally, I bring my must to about 75C for 15-30 minutes and skim off all the resultant foam (this helps make a clear mead, free of off taste), wax and bee parts.

As for ingridients, I always try to get fresh honey from the local farmer's market or from a beekeeper. I would shy away from Billy Bee or any other refined honey, as it's probably lost a lot of it's character from processing. If making a melomel with fruit, freeze your fruit first, as this break down the fruit a bit and will release more flavours. Also, don't leave the fruit in for too long, especially with seeds in there, as it's reputed that seeds will produce some off flavours as well.

The newsgroup, rec.crafts.meadmaking, is a wealth of information, and rec.crafts.winemaking is also useful as much of the process and equipment is the same as winemaking.

This book, Mead Made Easy got me off to a good start... although I used a bit different of a recipe. Go ahead and try it, it's not too hard to screw up... I've yet to ruin a batch. Just be careful, and don't be afraid to experiment. Start small if you're worried about it not turning out. Try it, I'm sure you won't regret it!
"To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die one, an achievement."

Ahh yes... (none / 0) (#85)
by Desco on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 10:29:49 AM EST

There'r those of us who've been brewing mead for years, 'cause it's so damn good and so damn unavailable.  I respect all home brewers of beer and wine, who do so out of passion and curiosity...  however, some of us homebrew out of pure necessity.  I'm surprised with the recent surge in "alternative" malt beverages that someone doesn't come out with a "hip" bottled version...  Like what Mike's Hard Lemonade did, or what Bicardi Silver and Skyy Blue succeeded where Zima failed.  There is one bottled version (sorta) that is trying-- Ace makes hard ciders (including a DAMN good pear cider-- a LOT better than the Woodchuck variety, which is total ass IMO) that also makes a "Honey Apple Cider", which is the closest to a pop mass-produced mead.

There are a couple commercial meads that I've found that are decent.  First of all, if you're looking to be experimental STAY AWAY from "Polish mead" or "Polish honey wine".  There's a flavor in there that reminds me of the cherry-flavored BO popular in some New York cabs.  But it's actually pretty good for marinading chicken.  Anyway, there's a local brewer in Indiana, Oliver Winery (www.oliverwinery.com) that bought a recipe/company making Camelot Mead.  It's a little thin, but it tastes good.  The guy who got me into mead says if you leave a bottle in the back of the cellar for 2 years, it gets REALLY good.  The other really good commercial variety I've found is Chaucer mead (www.chaucerswine.com)  This one's as close to my homebrew as I've ever found.  Plus it comes with a mulling spice packet, which is awesome to make hot spiced mead on a cold winter day.


Mead is much better if you let it age... (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by dghcasp on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 08:10:18 PM EST

I went through a mead-making phase several years ago.  I set one case aside to age, as people had told me that it gets better over time.

What I found was that it doesn't start to get really good until it's about three years old, and it reaches its peak at about seven years.  After that point, any improvement isn't really that noticable.

I have two bottles left and their thirteenth birthday is coming up this september...

That batch, I used more honey, fresh lemons, about two pounds of ground ginger and threw some hops in the pot for the last five minutes of the boil.

Mead (none / 0) (#94)
by Dickie Crickets on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:52:18 AM EST

Mead, tasty honey mead,
Baby has a thirsting need.
Order up another round,
Drink it on right doooooown.

King of Megaphone Crooners
And Now For Something Completely Different - Mead! | 100 comments (92 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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