Meadcraft: The Waiting Game
Why make mead? Ask
Weasel Breweries' Master Brewer Olde Pyehole this question and he'll either
answer, "Cause the chicks dig it!" or "Can't think of one
damned reason!" Then, he'll probably spit in your eye.
The only answer that
really works is, "Because." Mead is good. Sure, it takes a hell
of a long time, but whether you're talking about meads, methyglyns, pyments,
or whatever, there's just something magical, even mystical, about drinking
fermented bee spit. It was good for your early homo sapiens forebearers,
and it's still good for you, and some of the mead they made is probably
about ready to drink by now.
Abbot Athos handles
most of the mead making here at the Ann Arbor Abbey, so he's the one that
has the most to say about the subject, which still isn't much, since there's
so much great stuff out here on the web and in print about making mead.
For links to some highly informative sites, visit the Weasel Breweries
Links page. For the the weasel way to make mead
in 75 simple steps, read on.
Step 0: Drink some
mead if you've got any, and sanitize everything...
tasty while cleaning your brewing equipment. It is impossible to overstress
the importance of sanitized equipment. It means all the difference between
having really great mead and having fetid crap in a big, heavy bottle.
Clean everything. Twice. And drink some more. Twice.
Step 1: Put water
in a big effing pot...
In a 30 liter stainless
steel brew pot, bring the appropriate amount of cold water to a boil.
Step 2: It's honey
When the big effing
brew pot reaches the boiling point, begin stirring all of that steaming
hot water and add the honey. Do this slowly. Boil for 15 minutes. When
boiling, foamy scum called "albumen" forms on the surface.
This stuff will cloud the mead. Skim it all off of the top and keep
skimming until it stops forming.
Step 3: Drink something
Steps 4: Add the
After boiling the
mixture of honey and water, for 15 minutes and skimming, add all of
the things you've decided to use to flavor your mead, like spices, fruit,
hops, etc. Also add acid blend to raise the PH, and yeast nutrient to
help the yeast get started.
Step 5: Drink something
Drink it. Drink
Steps 6-18: Cool
Cool the mead to
85 degrees Farenheit or lower before placing it in the primary fermenter.
Cool it as quickly as possible to prevent yeast infections (really).
I do this with a "wort chiller" which is really a long coil
of copper (or stainless steel) tubing attached to a garden hose.
When cool, pour
the wort into the primary fermenter which, around here, means a seven
gallon glass carboy with an airlock on top.
Step 19: Hey batta
batta... suwing batta... pitching the yeast...
Without yeast, you
can't have mead, so this is the big moment. Be certain that the temperature
of the mead is below 85 degrees Farenheit and add --or "pitch"--
the yeast. You can use either dry (inactive) sherry or champagne yeast
or liquid (active) mead or wine yeast. If you really want to start things
off with a bang, you can grow a "starter culture" from the
yeast several days ahead of time. We're usually too lazy around here,
but directions on how to do this should be on the yeast packet.
Step 20: Primary
Leave mead in primary
fermenter until fermentation nearly subsides (this can take up to a
month, depending on temperature). Make certain that your one-way airlock
is firmly in place, so that gasses can escape the carboy, but can't
enter it. It's also really important to keep the wort in the dark, either
by putting the carboy in a dark closet or by covering the carboy with
a crisply pressed shirt and tuxedo jacket... or a black plastic bag
for those of you that don't know how to show your style.
Step 21: Secondary
has nearly subsided, clean the hell out of a another carboy using your
sanitizing solution. Use the smallest carboy that will contain the mead,
in order to fill the bottle as full as possible and keep as much oxygen
out of the fermenter as possible. Using a sanitized siphon, transfer
the wort into the secondary fermenter. Leave it in there for at least
Step 22: Tertiary
The mead isn't really
fermenting much by this time, but transferring the mead again helps
to clarify it. Using a sanitized siphon, transfer the wort into the
tertiary fermenter. Try to arrange it so you've got more mead than you
can quite fit in your tertiary, filling the vessel all the way up to
the neck to reduce oxidation as much as possible. At the abbey, we use
a 3.6 gallon carboy for this purpose; you lose some quantity, but that's
still a lot of mead. Leave it in there for at least two months.
Step 23: More cleaning...
wouldn't your mamma be proud...
Clean your bottles
well. Around here, we dip them in santizer and then run them through
the dishwasher *without detergent*. Then, when everything is sanitized,
and I mean everything, you are ready to bottle.
Steps 24-75: Bottling
Bottling is an individual
taste thing. Here we use wine and champagne bottles that we have dutifully
emptied. Depending on whether we are aiming for a sweet mead or a sparkling
mead, we either use wine bottles or champagne bottles, respectively.
Corking is a little tricky sometimes, so make certain that you get the
longest, highest quality corks you can find. After corking, drink some
mead and label the bottles.
Finally, let the
bottled mead age in a cool, dark place. We recommend a minimum of one
year regardless of the style of mead. Aging and blending is actually
better measured in years, so settle in for a good long wait.
To comment, complain
or confess, send email to the
Monks of Ann Arbor Abbey.
1997-2011 Kirk R. Humphries and Sandy Marshall. All rights reserved. Weasel
Breweries, Monks of Ann Arbor Abbey, and Olde Pyehole are trademarks
of Kirk Humphries and Sandy Marshall. And so is a lot of other stuff.
Last update: 29 August