Monday, August 26, 2013

Moniack Mead... a mini review........ part 2

Right ho, thinks me. It's time for the pH meter. Now I don't have much acid testing kit, because meads are fuckers too test. You can get a pH figure, but titration tests etc are usually out the window as they test for tartaric acid etc, in wines. Plus when making meads, any reader who makes their own, knows that we have to keep the pH in the middle sort of area of the 3.X pH range. Because if it drops below 3.0 pH the yeast can throw their toys out their pram and say bollocks, causing a stuck ferment - this seems especially important with traditional meads, because basically there's bog all to buffer the pH and it can swing quite wildly. Melomels, fruit meads in general, this seems to be less of an issue as the fruit can buffer the pH some and you're less likely  to have to reach for the potassium carbonate.

Ok, check the pH meter, fuck....... run out of calibration solution. Ok thinks me, last time I checked the tap water, it was 7.01 pH and while this pH meter is cheaper than the old one (old one measured in hundredths, this one only measures in tenths), I can use tap water, calibrate to neutral (7.0 pH) and it should be close enough.

So, calibrated with water, then into the mead, fuck! that can't be right. Ok so down the shed for some new batteries. Installed, fine. Rinsed test meter again, 7.0 pH for tap water - should only be a hundredth out, fine, that's close enough. Into the mead and.........

2 point fucking 6 ? No wonder it didn't taste cloyingly sweet. I can't say for certain, but one of the known ways for masking excess sweetness is acid, or sometimes tannin addition.
Not surprising it's not as sweet as the other commercial meads I'd previously tasted. I can't say which acid might have been used, but I have to presume that's how it's been done. Could be wrong, but I add acid all the time to reduce sweetness in my own meads.

Personally, I like to use the mix suggested in Ashton & Duncans book "Making Mead" when I do this. It's 2 parts malic acid to 1 part tartaric acid, but I try to add it incrementally so as not to over do it.

2.6 pH ? Amazing.

So what was my over all view ?

Well, I like the colour, there's nothing to suggest whether they just happened to use a dark coloured honey, whether it might have been wild flower, or varietal like heather which can be dark but not always, or even sourced some dark buckwheat to do that. Don't know, just that it's a nice colour.

The aroma wasn't what I'd call very strong. I've mentioned a possible reason for that above, yet it's common for home mead makers not to boil or heat honey very much at all currently, as it preserves more of the aromatics of the honey, whereas boiled honey/must, apparently gives a nicer, less rough, more rounded sort of taste.

The taste was good IMO, didn't seem too sweet, a smooth after taste if the mead is held in the mouth for a couple of moments. Nice "body", good legs in the glass (even though I had to put it into the bottom of a pint glass, as all the other wine glasses are packed away while the bloody builders are shitting up the house......)

I'd give it a "very good" grade, peeking over the edge of excellent. Maybe that'd be a "high" 4 out of 5, almost 4.5 out of 5.

Compared to what I'd paid for half bottles previously, the advertised £8.40 a bottle (on the website, without shipping) didn't seem too bad at all.

My only real critcism is the "corporate generic" appearance of the label and the wording. That gets a "could do better", but WTF, it doesn't affect the taste.......


Math Campbell-Sturgess said...

Hey :) Just found your blog as I was wanting to know the SG of Moniack compared to the mead I just bottled as I think I've over sweetened, and moniack is my "no sweeter than this" mark..intrigued to know it's the acid that masks the cloying sweetness...mine is bottled at 1.018 and it's just a little too sweet for me.

Living here in Scotland, I have some moniack (just didn't want to measure it as figured it would be quicker to Google)...I also happen to know a little about it.

About 6 or 7 years ago, the family-run company that used to make Moniack sold up to a company that makes "rural" wines & country liquors etc. down in England. Since then, the mead hasn't tasted quite as good. I think, as you hinted, they've stopped using heather honey and switched to cheaper stuff...

The reason for the colour though is nothing to do with the honey. It's because it's a caramelised mead. They boil the honey for quite a long time to caramelise some of the sugars before it's fermented. This also gives that slightly burnt taste to it. I believe they used to age it in wine barrels as well, though god knows if they've kept that up..

I do know it used to taste a bit nicer than it does now, alas, but it's still a good mead (certainly better than my first attempt here, which is colourless, and quite lacking in body!)

Thought you'd appreciate some background on it, in exchange for making my life easier with your post!

Unknown said...

FYI, if you don't have pH calibration solution, vinegar is 2.4 :). There are lots of other ingredients around the home that you could use, but this is the one I remember.

Fatbloke said...

Well I wasn't introduced to Moniack until I posted the review/what I managed to measure. They don't make any mention of it being a bochet type mead etc, and in truth, you can find meads that dark naturally - I got a bucket of Buckwheat honey via a friend in Poland, and it's nowhere near as dark as the descriptions that you can read about that come from the US.

Equally, Avacado honey is also, apparently, very dark, almost like molasses/black treacle etc. Not that i've tried any with such deep colouration. Those that have managed to get hold of some and advertise it on ebay all seem to think they'll get fortunes for it........not from fucking me they won't.

The Polish stuff was not so sweet, it had a nice almost malt-like taste. I'll stick with that for now, until I can get some of the darker buckwheat.

After all, it doesn't matter whether you boil the honey openly for a bochet type batch, or as I tried it with reasonable success, jarred but in a slow cooker - I think the slow cooker method was a bit better as it didn't have so much of a caramelised/burned sort of note to it.......

Ta for the info though Math Campbell, any extra info is always appreciated.......

Fatbloke said...

Further to buckwheat honey that's not like many of the descriptions from the US that can be read.

I've another bucket that I got recently through a honey dealer in Bremen (Germany). It' quite similar to the one that Marek helped me to get, inasfaras, it's not the mega dark colour and is similar in taste i.e. not as very sweet as some honey can seem, but with the distinctly malty sort of flavour to it.

I have to presume, that when trying to compare it to the stuff that seems available in the US (but possibly sometimes Poland too - Marek sent me a photo of some buckwheat honey he got recently and it looked rather like a medium caramelised honey for a bochet, so I'm having to presume that there is some region and natural variation to it - but I digress)......

where was I ? Oh yes, it seems that the dark buckwheat often mentioned from US connections is considered "Eastern" and routinely darker, more molasses looking with the "barnyard" notes (don't quite follow what that is, but suspect if I encountered it, I'd know). Whereas the lighter less "barnyard" type is "Western".

I'm presuming that alludes to which side of the US it was harvested from - and yes, I do appreciate that the flora will differ enough either side, to make a difference.......