Although we’re seeing it in stores more and more, as compared to wine and beer, mead is a little known fermented beverage using honey as the source for fermentable sugars. Like wine, mead can be sweet or dry. You can choose to leave it unflavored or doctor it up with fruit or spices.
While mead requires more patience than beer, it is surprisingly easy to make and requires less equipment. It makes for a shorter brew day as well. You can put together a batch in a couple of hours.
Here is the procedure that I use to make a five gallon batch of great mead:
- Put about four and a half gallons of water in my boil kettle. I bring it to a boil, add a couple teaspoons of yeast nutrient, a couple teaspoons of yeast energizer, and boil the water for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s best to use filtered or bottled water if what comes out of your tap has a particularly heavy chlorine or other undesirable taste.
- Chill the water down to about 90 degrees. I use my immersion chiller to accomplish this but an ice bath will work as well. Warmer water will help the honey dissolve more easily.
- Add 15 lbs of honey to the kettle and stir until it’s dissolved. This is about 1 1/4 gallons. There is a debate among mead makers whether or not to boil your honey. I land squarely on the “No” side and have had great results. If this is a debate you wish to know more about then Google can provide you with more opinions than you are probably interested in reading,
- Finish chilling to 70 degrees.
- Pour your must from your kettle to the fermenter. One of your goals is to aerate it while pouring it. Don’t be too gentle with it.
- Pitch your yeast.
I leave my mead in primary as long as it is bubbling away. This typically takes between one and three months. After that I rack it to a five gallon glass carboy and try to forget about it. You can bottle at any point after that mead clears but I’ve found it best to wait until it is at least a year old before messing with it. It will be good when it clears. It will be really good later.
Once it gets close to bottling time I may add spices, fruit or something else that sounds interesting to the mead to flavor it. I’ll also typically taste it and add acid blend at that point if I think that it is too sweet.
In this episode of the BeerSmith Podcast, Brad Smith interviews Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery in New Hampshire. In the interview Michael describes a technique for adding nutrients to the must on a schedule to get it to ferment faster. I can’t wait to give it a try. It’s a great interview and worth listening to if you’re interested in making mead.