I had some free time and birthday money on Sunday, so I decided to brew up some more mead. This was an ambitious and experimental brewing for me. I’ve brewed 2 previous batches of mead, as you may recall. The first batch had a low honey/water ratio and a Champagne Yeast, and came out strong and very, very dry. The second I used a slightly higher honey/water ratio and an ale yeast; which came out slightly stronger than beer with a sweet, rich flavor. Both times I used local Wildflower Honey bought in bulk (5lbs jugs). This time I actually made 3 different batches.
I made a 1 gallon batch using local Clover Honey and the Ale yeast. This should come out pretty sweet, and I am very interested to taste test it against the Wildflower Honey batch, as I used the same yeast and approximately the same honey/water ratio. The 2nd batch I made using the Champagne Yeast and Wildflower Honey at about a double honey/water ratio of the Christmas batch (about 6lbs per gallon). My hope is for a strong, sweet mead; one that’s closer to the alcohol content of strong wine, but with a gentler flavor than the Christmas batch. Again, this was a simple mead (or Show Mead as plain honey meads are called now days), no spices or other additions.
The last batch I made is the most interesting. I used a mix of the 2 musts (though heavier on the Wildflower Honey) and re-brewed them with dried Elderberry and Cloves. Elderberry is an interesting fruit: it has a long held tradition in Europe as a healing plant, especially useful for respitory infections, and is often brewed into a wine with grapes and cloves. Elderberry cannot be eaten raw though, and must be cooked thoroughly otherwise it is actually poisoness. So I was sure to let the batch boil extra long before cooling. It has a very pleasent scent, fruity sweet from the Elderberry and honey, spicey from the Cloves. I’m using the Champagne Yeast, so it should come out pretty strong. I’ve decided to call it my Rainy-Day Melotheglin, and I can’t wait to try it when it finishes fermenting.
I just bottled the new batch of mead a few days ago, using my fancy new auto-syphon (the big tubey thing sticking out of the carboy). You may recall that this batch was made with a higher honey/water ratio, and a different yeast (an Ale Yeast to be precise, which has a lower alcohol yield and is slower to ferment than the Champagne Yeast I used for the Christmas batch). So I broached and bottled this batch, and I have to say it came out wonderfully. It is definitely sweet, due to the increase in honey and the use of the Ale yeast, but it is not the cloyingly sweet taste that many meads suffer from. And the wildflower honey I used seems to have imparted a bit more complexity to the flavor than what I had expected. It’s tasty enough that my buddy James, who has always hated mead, loves it.
It also has a good bit of kick to it. The Christmas batch seemed to come out at about the maximum yield of the Champagne Yeast (around 15%); this is much less than that, at what I guess to be around the full yield of the Ale yeast: about 5-7%. So not really strong, but stronger than most beer (in Utah anyway). I just got a new hydrometer, but since I could not measure the gravity of the batch before fermentation it doesn’t really do me a lot of good for now. But the next batch I make I will find out the gravity for certain. That’s all for now. I will be making another batch as soon as I can afford the supplies, and of course I will let you know how it goes. This was only a gallon batch, so I don’t have a lot of it, which makes me sad. The next one will probably be a 2 gallon batch with a slightly lower honey/water ratio and the same yeast. I may try a different honey as well, but the local wildflower honey is easy to get, and tastes great, so who knows…
I realized that I never posted a picture of my labels for the Christmas Mead I made. A friend and I finished off his bottle last week and I snapped a picture of it to show off. I think they came out quite nicely, which I can mostly attribute to my wife’s excellent label making skills. I have no idea who owns the raven image I used, but since this is not commercial I’m not too worried. Though I would be interested to know since I am very fond of it. Anyway, that’s all for this post, just thought some of you might be interested.
Sunday was a big day.
First I bottled my batch of Christmas Metheglin: 8 bottles total. I tried some before bottling; it’s very dry, with a spicy aroma and a bit of bite in the flavor. It seems to be pretty high gravity; but my hydrometer broke so I can’t be certain.
Next we brewed up a fresh batch of rootbeer. This time we just used some extract and a little (seriously, like 1 TSP per gallon) molasses, plus a lot of sugar. Our first batch with the actual roots we used an ale yeast, which has a lower alcohol tolerance and consumes the sugar more slowly. This time we used a champagne yeast which will pressurize it quickly, since we’ll be bottling right away.
We got thirteen standard beer bottles of root beer, and two larger hinge-cork bottles. The bottle capper is a lot of fun for some reason. We don’t have labels yet, but we might get some printed up later this week, not certain about that yet.
After the rootbeer was boiled, cooled, and bottled, I started a new (smaller) batch of Mead. This will be a plain Mead, no spices or anything but honey. I used a little higher honey to water ratio, and the ale yeast instead of champagne yeast so this batch should be sweeter than the Metheglin, and without that bite. I also didn’t use a yeast nutrient, which supposedly can affect the flavor a bit, but instead used some of the yeast sediment from the Metheglin batch as a nutrient starter.
Only a gallon for this batch, but I think that in a month or two when I rerack this to a different carboy I’ll start another 2 gallon batch, and soon I’ll have Mead for all occasions, year round!
So my super awesome wife and I decided to do some brewing and give the results as Christmas presents. Actually it was mostly her idea and I went along because it’s awesome. Above are the results. The one on the right is my batch of Mead (technically Metheglin since I added spices) and the one on the left is Ye Really Olde Fashioned Rot Beer. Or maybe we should just say Sarsaparilla. Turns out, the FDA doesn’t like Sassafras unless it’s been deSafroled, which makes it a pain to get cheap. So we substituted extra Sarsaparilla instead. It smells kinda funny, but we’ll see how it turns out.
Above we have the ingredients we used for the Root Beer. Hopefully the batch will turn out. We are trying to brew it up to be mildly alcoholic, but if it comes out tasting bad I actually think the culprit will be the Burdock Root. That stuff smells awful by itself. Also, we’ll probably look into getting some Sassafras Root if this batch doesn’t come out right. We should know in a few weeks.
The Metheglin is going to take a lot longer. It won’t actually be done until December, and even then I’m supposed to let it age in the bottles for at least a year. But I’ll probably only age a bottle or two; I’ve had unaged Mead before and loved it, and I’m just too impatient to wait that long. I tried a little of the Must (unfermented Mead) and it tasted great, just like Christmas in fact. I’m making it as a dry Mead, so it won’t be very sweet, but the cinnamon and cloves and rosemary should give it about the perfect spice.
I wish I had though to snap some pictures during the brewing process, but it sadly did not occur to me. For those of you unfamiliar with the brewing process, it goes something like this: first, disinfect the hell out of everything. The last thing you want is to ruin a batch because you didn’t kill some miserable little bacteria. Next, boil you water (preferably spring or carbon filtered, pure with no chlorine) and whatever brewing ingredients your recipe calls for. Next you cool it in an ice bath (careful to keep the lid on now that it’s cooling to prevent contamination). Once it is cool enough pour it into the fermentor and add the yeast (usually already prepared in a separate container with warm water). Store somewhere moderately warm, and wait.