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Hi, honey

by VM Brasseur on February 26th, 2006

Back in the fall someone planted the idea in my head of making hard cider. That plan never worked out, but it did directly lead to the limoncello and other liqueurs which I’ve started making. And now it’s led to actual brewing. That’s right, it’s time for mead.

My textbook for this new endeavor is The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm. It’s a nicely written and very approachable piece of work. Restraining my hubris and desire to jump right into something complicated, I’m starting with Schramm’s basic “first-timer” mead recipe. It’ll make five gallons of still (not sparkling) mead. Or so I hope.

I’ve become convinced that the reason folks don’t make or drink much mead anymore isn’t some flaw in mead itself. No, the reason they don’t make or drink much mead is that honey is bloody expensive. Fifteen pounds (five liters) of honey are required for my recipe. It can’t be crappy honey, either. Crappy honey gets you crappy mead and, really, what’s the point of putting in all the time and effort if you already know it’s going to suck at the end? Today I went down to the Marin farmers’ market and scoped out the honey purveyors. One would sell me 15# of wildflower honey for $80. Yowza! The other, thankfully, was able to get me 15# of orange blossom (called for by the recipe) for a paltry $48. Still painful and more than expected, but not so bad.

The gear and doodads required for brewing beer/mead/cider are relatively inexpensive. I’d been accumulating them over the past month or so, picking up a few whenever I happened to be in the neighborhood of the homebrew shop.

The entire process took maybe three hours, which includes a lot of down time for such things as “bring a gallon of water to a boil” and “let the mixture cool down to below 80° F.” I thought of photo-documenting the process, but it really wasn’t photogenic.

Now I have five gallons of sugar water and yeast living in my closet. Tomorrow I get to check and see whether the “thing that goes bloop” (aka the gas lock thingie) is actually blooping. That means the yeast is alive an well and gorging itself silly. We like that.

Anyhoo, we’ll see how this all works out. Maybe it’ll flop and I just blew $48 on nothing. Or maybe the end result will be a sublime tasty beverage. Updates will, of course, be found in this space as they become available.

  1. Thar she bloops! I must’ve done something right, since upon opening my closet door this morning the fermentation lock was bubbling away nicely. Now it gets to sit for about two weeks while the little yeastie buggie-boos chow down. After that, the whole thing gets siphoned off to a 5 gallon glass carboy for a bit more sitting and brewing.

  2. Quizzart permalink

    The thing that goes bloop
    Honey munching yeast buggies
    Carboy filled with mead

  3. JoiseyGirl permalink

    Where does the honey come in? Or is that the sugar water?

  4. That’s the sugar water. Fifteen pounds of honey plus four gallons of water plus some champagne yeast and yeast nutrient. Eventually it’ll be about twenty-five 750ml bottles of mead.

  5. Good honey is worth the cash layout. I don’t know if it’s worth it for mead (as I’ve never made mead), but just to taste it, good honey is worth it.

  6. The book says that crappy honey gets you crappy mead, as mead pretty much enhances the honey-ness of the honey. Since it’s mostly just water and honey, the honey flavor is completely exposed.

    This was really good orange blossom honey. It was very floral tasting and fragrant. Now it’s fragrant in a different way, as my closet is starting to smell of yeast.

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