Saturday, June 30, 2007

Well, apart from the stuff that I've already mentioned, I've got ideas for 2 other mead type wines. The recipes for both, I got from one of the home brewing forums that I read/post at. Both are really winter drinks, one actually has a name i.e. Barshack Ginger Mead, though ginger, being a spice, means that it should really be called Metheglin (derived from a Welsh word), the other being a mix of a metheglin and a "Melomel" i.e. a mead but made with fruit. It hasn't got a name really (winter mead/winter melo-meth might be appropriate), but it's made with a mix of cranberry juice and apple juice (strictly speaking an apple juice/cider mead is called (I think, I'd have to check) a Cyser or Cyster). Being in the UK, getting fresh cranberry is a PITA. It's more of a "christmas"/American thing. Not that thats a criticism though, it appears that the making of meads is relatively popular amongst our home brewing "cousins" across the pond.

Anyway, the recipes.

Barkshack Ginger Mead
Ingredients for 5 USgal. (19 L)

7 lbs Light Honey
1.5 lbs Corn Sugar
1 to 6 oz freshly grated Ginger
1 tsp Gypsum
1 tsp Citric Acid
3 tsp Yeast Nutrient
¼ tsp Irish Moss

Boil for 15 mins in 1.5 gal water. Top off to 5 gals in primary.

When cooled to 70-78F add Champagne yeast.

After gravity has fallen to 1.020 or within 7 days rack to a carboy. Age 1.5 months.

Bottle with ¾ C Corn Sugar (optional – if you want sparkling mead).

Age at least 6 months. Flavors will mellow (ginger). Best after 1 year.

and the "winter mead/winter melo-meth" is

Winter Mead (melo-meth)

Recipe Type: Extract
Yeast: See below
Yeast Starter: 1 quart
Batch Size (Gallons): 3
Original Gravity: ??
Final Gravity: ??
Boiling Time (Minutes): 00
Color: deep red
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 14 days/70
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 56 days/70
Additional Fermentation: 6 days/70
Here's the recipe:
6 to 9 lbs honey - I used 9 lbs of clover
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice (crushed)
3 2-inch cinnamon sticks
1 gallon apple juice
1 gallon cranberry juice
water to top off

I actually got this recipe from a newsletter I used to get and had it laying around with plans to make it someday. Last September I decided it was time. I got real anal about the juices, since that makes most of the fluid, and I don't know how much of the flavor to account to those juices or not. I went to the local Whole Foods Market and got pure, not-from-concentrate, cranberry juice, which was surprisingly hard to find, for about $7 per quart. I also got the apple juice, same way from the same market.

The original recipe calls for Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast but I used the White Labs Sweet Mead yeast.

My method:
I heated the honey enough to be able to pour easily, no, I don't pasturize or boil, and some water to put in the container for the remainder. I filtered the juices into the carboy, again, no heating, and added the spices and honey. I then added water to top off the carboy, checked the temp, and pitched the yeast. The recipe says let sit for two weeks and top off with water but I racked it here and topped it off. Then after another 2 months I racked it and added wine conditioner to kill the yeast and resweeten some. I let that sit for another week and bottled it. When I bottled, I got a taste and, unlike all other meads I've made, it was good right then. I've had several people try it after that and they all liked it.

Some minor issues do occur when using recipes that originate in the US. For instance, the "Barshack Ginger Mead", well the recipe says about using 1.5 lb's of "corn sugar". I asked the bloke in the local home brew shop, and he explained that he didn't stock it because there wasn't much call for it. He also said that there was a strong possibility that the use of "normal" sugar would work just as well (in the UK, the "normal" sugar would mean that if it's produced by "Tate and Lyle", it's cane sugar, and if it's produced by "British Sugar" it's beet sugar). So in my case, I'm gonna see whats easiest to get in the local Supermarket.

Also, with the "Winter Mead (melo-meth)" recipe, theres a couple of issues e.g. the yeast isn't so easy to obtain, and the honey suggested isn't that easy to get hold of, certainly not if I want to keep the costs down.

Thats a bit of a bonus really, because while it means that my mead doesn't have the subtle differences of the specialist honey thats often suggested in some recipes, as I just use the "normal runny honey" thats available in the supermarket, it's already been pasturised for retail sale so it means that I don't have to boil/heat so much (particularly with "basic" mead recipes).

I'm gonna do the Ginger Mead recipe over this weekend, and I will heat that as per the recipe instruction because I'd need to extract as much of the ginger flavour as possible (I'm actually actively hunting for a "ginger wine" recipe that will produce something close to commercially available ginger wine, such as "Stones Green Ginger wine").

As for the "Winter Mead (melo-meth) recipe, well as soon as I can get hold of the cranberries to make the juice (if I can't get fresh, I'll have to try to get dried ones) and then work out what yeast I can get to use, thats at least similar to the suggested ones. So thats for the near future. Oh and I did email the person who posted the recipe on the forum, to ask about other possible fruit to try as a substitute for the cranberry (raspberries, currently being in season), he just said that I should try whatever is available - so it'd be even more of an experiment.


p.s. Oh and I'm wondering if I can find out what the difference is between "corn" sugar and normal sugar. I suppose I'll have to post to one of the forums and see if anyone else has any idea about that!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Brewing History thus far.

I initially went down to the local home brew shop, asking about any books/info for brewing mead. I ended up spending about £20 or so on a starter kit and a book.

The starter kit was just the hardware i.e. fermenter, hydrometer, syphon tube etc etc. The book was First Steps in Wine Making by C.J.J.Berry. It's a nice, easy to follow book that had 2 or 3 mead type recipes. One of which I picked out and got the ingredients for. It was described as "dry" Mead.

I basically followed the instructions, the only thing being that I used the yeast recommended by the bloke who runs the home brew shop - Youngs "Dessert/High Alcohol" wine yeast.

Once that batch was going, I did some more digging and ended up buying another book, one specifically on mead making, called Compleat Meadmaker by an American bloke called Ken Schramm.

Now the first book was a little on the "general" side, though very useful, whereas the second one was very technically in depth, but without a huge number of recipes. Plus, as it seems to be aimed at the US market, so far, it's proved problematic getting some of the ingredients - though I think I've managed to source suitable alternatives.

I read the Meadmaker book from cover to cover. It explained a few things that I wasn't expecting, like when I'd finished the first batch of mead, it did indeed, like the book suggested, taste a little like "Listerine". Though I suspect thats more to do with the yeast and the alcohol levels that I probably achieved (a guesstimate of 15 to 18% abv). I'd been a little worried that I'd managed to fuck up my first batch, but subsequent reading suggests that it will need aging for at least 12 months. I decided to age it in bulk i.e. in a 1 gallon glass demijon - it should be ready to test/check/bottle in November this year.

I then decided to try the apple wine recipe in Berrys' book, as theres quite a number of "wild" apple trees locally (leftover from road building and an abandoned orchard). The recipe is one that is quite heavy on fruit (something like 10 to 12 lb per gallon), which I followed, the end result being like very sweet cider.

By now I was ready to try mead again, more chats with the bloke in the home brew shop and reading up whatever I could find on the net, lead me to try a larger batch, with the only change being about 20% more honey per gallon. When that had finished, it tasted even more "listerine" than the first (the info on the yeast - the youngs "dessert/high alcohol" wine yeast, suggests it's capable of 18%+). So before laying it down, I added 2 lb more honey by way of a sweetner but also in the hope that it will eventually taste a little like the commercially available mead that I've tried - I'll have to wait and see !

I made a batch, using a recipe that my mother found in "The Gales Honey recipe book". The same yeast was used, but it included about 600ml of cold tea. That actually tasted the best, immediately post fermentation/initial racking.

So after referencing the Ken Schramm book, I found that I could obtain at least 3 of the yeasts that he suggested. All by "Lalvin". Types K1V-1116 All Purpose, EC-1118 Champagne and 71B-1122 Noveau. These are all "dried" yeasts. I decided to make a 3 gallon version of the "Gales Honey" recipe, but before pitching the yeast, split the must into 3, 1 gallon demijons, and then use 1 for each type of yeast.

They've been going for about 10 days now. Strangely enough, it was the K1V-1116 mix that was the most active, the quickest. It also seemed to lighten in colour the quickest, but after 3 or 4 days, the other two brews caught up. Now the only thing that identifies which mix got which yeast is the yeast packet wrapped round the handle.

This batch is more experimental, as I want to find out roughly, which tastes the best after I've racked it off the sludge - in the hope that the best tasting one, will age a bit quicker. Oh and in this case, I decided to do something I had read about, but not bothered doing. Measured the specific gravity of the must before pitching the yeast. It was 1.130

Ok thats the brewing history up to date, all I've got to do is add some links on this blog - and no, I'm sorry I don't particularly like the template either, but it's the best of a bad bunch, until I work out if I can customise it some - don't wait for any miracles though. The whole point of this is to "spread the word".


My Humble Efforts

So, as I'm sure you can guess from the title, this is about a fatbloke i.e. me and home brewing.

As I'm now in my early 40's, I'm not so much of a beer drinker (as I've got older, I've discovered that I can't drink anymore than 2 or 3 pints before experiencing the over-riding need to piss - gone are the days of the 10 to 12 pint bladder capacity).

I'm lucky enough to live not too far from Middle Farm and their excellent collection of ciders and perrys. Actually they also do a few other types of "drink", one of which, has become my main interest for home brewing. That'd be Mead, also known as Honey Wine. Yup, you've guessed it, wine made from honey.

During the learning process, I've discovered a few other types of home brew that I'd like to try as well as the mead. It's just that mead "rings bells" because it's not frequently produced or drunk, but has a considerable history behind it.

It's not that difficult to make, plus the main fermentation part of the making doesn't take that long, but it really needs to be "aged" i.e. "laid down" for some considerable time (a year +, according to most of the info I've found about it, though it seems that some recipes might be drinkable sooner than that).

Ok, I'm gonna leave it at that for the moment, as I still have some more setting up for this blog before I'm happy with it.