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".


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