Mead Instructions

Mead is an ancient drink made from fermented honey and water. It is simple to make and easier to enjoy. It only requires the patience to let it age for better flavor. An endless variety of meads, both sweet and dry can be made using different honeys, fruits and spices. To make a sweet mead use 3 pounds of honey per gallon of mead that you are making. For a dry mead you only need about 2 pounds per gallon. Wine, champagne or beer yeast may be used.

The basic procedure for 5 gallons:

  1. Boil 1.5 gallons of water in a large stock pot (anything over 12 quarts will work).
  2. Add honey and bring back to a boil for 15 minutes. During this boil, proteins will coagulate on the top of the must (the honey-water mixture). Scrape these off using a straining spoon. The proteins should start to occur a few minutes into the boil. After 10-15 minutes they should stop forming. Add 2 tsp. yeast nutrient and 2 tsp. of yeast energizer and then turn off the heat. You can steep fruit in the near boiling must for 15 minutes. Spices and herbs can be added just before the end of the boil.
  3. Add your must to 2 gallons of chilled water and top off to five gallons in the fermentor.
  4. Add your yeast and shake the must to aerate it. A starter culture is always a good idea.
  5. Let honey ferment 4-6 weeks in primary. Rack into secondary fermentor for another 4-6 weeks. You can add 1-4 tsp. of acid blend or citric acid into the secondary fermentor or at bottling time to balance the sweetness. The mead should clear in about 8-10 weeks. The mead will benefit from aging but will be ready to bottle at this point. Age one month in the bottle before drinking. For a sparkling mead add 1 cup of corn sugar or 2/3 cup of honey at bottling.
  6. Drink deeply and enjoy your homebrewed mead.

Another method is to simply heat water to 180 degrees and add your honey. Steep this mixture at 160 degrees for 5 minutes. Add nutrients and cool down as before. The advantage of this method is that no flavor or aroma compounds are boiled away. The American Mead Association recommends this method. Just don’t expect your mead to clear as well.

A final option that most wine makers will be familiar with is the use of campden tablets. The metabisulfites in the tablets dissolve into your must and kill any wild yeast and bacteria. No heating is required, though it is much easier to dissolve the honey in warm water. Use 1-2 crushed tablets per gallon of must. Let the treated must sit for 18-24 hours before adding your yeast. This method also leaves the proteins in your mead and does not help it clear. Acton and Duncan, authors of the British book, Making Mead and both winemakers themselves, believe this is the best method. However, be aware that a small percentage of people are very sensitive to sulfites.

For more information on the process of making mead

Making Mead by Roger Morse. A well-written in depth look at all aspects of making mead.

Zymurgy, Spring 1995. The AHA research department looks at mead, yeast and honey.

Brewing Mead. A wonderful history of mead in Europe with a short chapter on how to make mead by Charlie Papazian. The appendix of the NCJHB, however, has more helpful information.

Most homebrewing books will include a chapter or a few pages on mead. Just check the index. Any materials on honey or beekeeping can also be great resources for mead info. Anyone interested in Medieval life or the SCA (a medieval society) and mead can find many resources on the web.

Mead Facts

Mead is the planet’s oldest fermented beverage. Its history dates back over eight thousand years.

Mead is truly a global drink. It independently originated in very diverse cultures including Egyptian, Celtic, Indian and Scandinavian.

Honey used to ferment naturally in the bee hive so that mead could be eaten or drunk.

Mead was the wine of Northern Europe. In the colder, non-grape producing regions, they knew no other wine than mead. Beowulf, Bede Wagner and Canterbury Tales all have references to mead. In Norse Mythology, Valhalla was said to have had rivers flowing with mead.

Our word medicine is derived from an herb-based style of mead called Metheglin.

Like grape wine, the kind and quality of honey used will effect the taste of the final product.

Mead is the national beverage of Ethiopia. There it is called T’ej.

Honey can be mixed with different juices to recreate traditional styles. Grapes and honey make a payment of clarre. Cider and honey combine for a cyser. When other fruits, such as raspberries or cranberries are added it is known as a melomel.

Mead is currently produced by over two dozen North American wineries.

The American Homebrewers Association has several mead categories in its national competition, both carbonated and still. They also award the Meadmaker of the Year award.

The American Mead Association publishes a quarterly journal on mead that includes research, recipes, history and information on where and how to buy commercial meads.

In Medieval times, it was customary for a newly married couple to be given enough mead to drink a glass every night for the first month (or moon cycle) of their marriage. If the wife became pregnant and bore a son, the mead maker was congratulated and held in great esteem for his potent nectar. This is the origin of the term honey-moon.

The most interesting mead stories, however, will be the ones that you create while making and drinking your very own mead. Wassail!

RESOURCES

American Mead Association Grand Junction, CO 1-800-693-MEAD. A great source of information and friendly help. They also have a complete listing of meaderies that will mail order.

The Mead Hall: http://alpha.rollanet.org/MHall.html. You can also look up three meaderies on the web: Honey Run, Erle Estates and Life Force Winery. Search the net for “honey” or “mead”.

Jimbo’s Naturally in Del Mar at 12853 El Camino Real 793-7755 carries 3 fruit meads.

Cost Plus has Chaucer’s Mead during the Winter (all locations as far as I know).

yala Restaurant in La Mesa serves mead with their fine Ethiopian food.

6942 University 461-7745 Right at the corner of 70th and University.

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