As promised, it’s time for a mead post! On Sunday we spent 7 hours, off and on, playing with mead. Actual work time was probably closer to 3 hours, but in that time we bottled a mead, racked two meads for clearing off, experimented with getting a mead going again (stalled) and started two new batches of mead. At current we have three meads fermenting, two clearing off, and three in the bottle.
Last post, I told you about starting three brews – the root beer, the traditional, and the experiment brew. On November 15, we racked these, getting the root beer and traditional off the leas (dead yeast) and getting the traditional off the orange peels and raisins. We also added a little more honey to the rootbeer and tossed in a healthy dose of vanilla extract – the real stuff. And we decided to move the experimental mead to a new jar because it had stalled. It was an acceptable sweetness, but only about 8%. And we were still wanting to push that number and add some more honey. So we did, degassed it, and set them all back in the box to do their things.
On Sunday, we decided that the root beer – or sarsaparilla mead – was ready for bottles. It hadn’t changed specific gravity and was still. We had noted on the 15th that the flavor was a little lacking – likely from our tea not being strong enough before we got started – and knew that it wouldn’t meet our standards for a “root beer” but it makes a hell of a cream soda. I noticed a bitterness at the finish, though the hubs doesn’t seem to notice it. But other than that, it’s fantastic. And, if our calculations are correct, it finished at 14.57%. And so far? We love it. We put two 750 ml bottles away for later drinking to see how it ages, but we’ve got two 1 liter bottles for now. We’ve ordered some more ingredients for another round of root beer. I’d like to get some vanilla beans, since I think the bitterness I’m getting off our current brew might be from the extract, but they are quite expensive, so they are out of our price range at the moment. But hopefully we’ll be able to do it in the near future, because we love vanilla in our root beer. I’ll keep y’all updated.
We did check the traditional mead and it seems to have finished and stilled as well, but it’s still very cloudy. We do have an additive that we can toss in that would help with that – and we might, since we already have it – but I wanted to see how it cleared on its own. It does seem to be clearing some, but I don’t know that either of us care enough to be patient enough to keep waiting much longer for it! It tastes so good! We’ll probably check it this weekend or next and will likely bottle at that time, but I’m making no promises either way.
For the experimental brew, we did go ahead and add another pound of honey on the 15th and we did see some change between then and Sunday, but not very much at all. So on Sunday, we racked it again and decided to toss in the rest of the yeast we used to start it. (To explain – the yeast comes in 5 gram pouches, and for up to 3 gallons, you only need half a packet. This is different from the recipe we originally used, but so far it seems to work very well, and is much less work.) We also set it into some warm water in the sink to help it get going again and we were happy to see it bubbling away before we put it into the box. I checked it this morning and, unfortunately, it has stopped again. We’ve got a few ideas for getting it started again – including letting it sit in some warm water for a few hours in case our cool house is the problem. If it’s not, we might try pitching some more of the other yeast we’ve been using that we’ve seen so much success with, since we have a few packs of that in the fridge.
Since we were working already – and had some time while we waited on the last bit, which I’ll get into in a moment – we decided it was past time that we did something with the last of the hub’s mulled – and now oaked – mead that we started last November. So we opened it up and – after a brief attempt to fish out chips (and apparently a ton of spice bags) – began racking it. And so the name of that mead has changed. To Riva Wata (river water) because it looks like we scooped it straight out of the Mississippi River! No lie, it looks so gross. Now, I am not a fan of his mulled mead – the spices are too strong for me to enjoy it, but he loves it and that’s what mattered to us. But being a good sport after checking ABV, I gave it a taste. And y’all. Y’ALL. This stuff is so good. It looks awful and we’re curious to see how it clears out. But even if it never does, we’re BOTH planning on drinking it when it comes time to bottle it. We’ll probably be checking it when we check the traditional mead to judge if it’s ready to bottle or not. I think this mead is the one that has surprised me the absolute most, as the oak chips mellowed everything I dislike out to a point that it is genuinely one of my favorites that we currently have.
Now, as I said at the beginning, we were, technically, working on mead for 7 hours. But that’s only technically. We started our two newest batches – our bochets inspired by C&S Mead and More – by caramelizing our honey in the crockpot. We likely could have done it in less time if we had cooked it on high – and likely will next time – but because it was our first time, we were being more careful so we didn’t overcook it. Now, when you caramelize sugars, some of them become unfermentable, so we went ahead and did four pounds for each batch. We decided to try two different batches, one made with tea and one without. The tea serves as a nutrient and as a subtle flavor and body additive. We used tea in the traditional mead as well and I liked the effect, though the hubs isn’t so sure. So one with and one without, to see what we think works best. I checked those this morning, too, and they are GOING. I’m really excited to see how those come out.
We have some burdock root and sassafras coming in for our root beer, as well as some hibiscus flowers, heather tips, and lavender for some other brews that we want to give a try. But those will have to wait until we get some fermenters opened up, as all but two of our gallon fermenters are currently full. The more we do this, the more I enjoy it and I have plans for more brews again come spring and summer when fruits are in season. I figure what we’ve got going now and will in the near future will be enough to keep us occupied until then.
Thank you for coming on this journey with us! There will be plenty more to come and we’re looking forward to taking you with us.