Saturday, April 14, 2012

Make Your Own Mead

So, I have run out of brewing kits here (Gasp!) and am almost out of my home brew. In a moment of clarity I decided to see what I could make with ingredients on hand. I could use sugar cane juice, which is readily available here but I was not sure about the quality of the resulting beverage. Mead however is a more proven drink, and people have been consuming this tasty nectar for thousands of years. Mead is wine that is made from fermenting honey. I unearthed a cool fact while researching mead: the term "Honeymoon" came from the practice of drinking mead for a month (more accurately, one cycle of the moon) after your wedding night because it was supposed to increase fertility... huh huh cool. Another source says that the father of the bride would gift a dowry of one months worth of mead, hence the term honeymoon, but I like the first one better. After lots of research it became apparent that becasue I was using pasteurized and filtered honey I needed to add nutrients to the honey so that the yeast would survive. Here is the recipe for one gallon I finally settled on:
  • 3 lbs of honey
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 1 handful of raisins chopped
  • The zest and juice of one orange
  • 1 tablespoon of black tea
  • Autolized (dead) yeast from old batch of beer (for nutrients)
  • 1 packet of yeast
Technically this is no longer mead (mead is just honey water and yeast) but I thought the added ingredients were needed to make the yeast survive. With the added ingredients the technical term is now metheglin (or spiced mead). I boiled all the ingredients for 20 minutes and skimmed the foam of the top. I measured the specific gravity at 1.092 (which means a potential alcohol content of 12-13 percent!) Then cooled the mead and pitched the yeast. The yeast that I used was from my last batch of beer (Russian Imperial Stout). The yeast went dormant and its job with the beer was done so it would either be poured down the drain or get to live the life of milk and honey! There is not much info out there and I was flying by the seat of my pants. I pulled the yeast from the secondary fermenter so there was no that much but since I was only making a gallon of mead it seemed like enough. The fermentation of the mead was slow compared to the beer but I attribute this to the small number of yeast cells that were added. I racked to the secondary fermenter after 10 days and it continued to ferment for another month! I just bottled today and the results are encouraging. Here is a picture showing the clarity change which is impressive without filtering.
                    After cooling, while checking SG            After a month of fermenting in secondary

The specific gravity at bottling was 0.995 which means 14% Alcohol! The taste is definitely wine like. You can tell it packs a punch and the flavor is the right amount of sweet and dry. It is recommended that mead be aged 6 months in the bottle before drinking so it should mellow with age. I also think that the little bit of bubbles and serving cold will make it a really enjoyable drink. The only other time I had mead, I was disenchanted with the sweetness but this is just right. It has been a fun experience and I can't wait to really drink some at April Fest!

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