OK OK, I stole that line from a t-shirt idea that was batted around today at my mead making class, but really.. I do feel the need to make some MEAD! From what I learned today, mead, being one of the worlds oldest fermented beverages, is also one of the easiest wines to make.
It stands to reason that it would be when you think about it considering that it was made, almost simultaneously by the Norse, the Egyptians and the Celts throughout history. They didn't have modern tools and sanitation ability like we do and were able make mead quite easily. Also honey, whick in case you aren't in the know about mead, is the base fermentable sugar in the mead, was one of the few available sugars throughout history.
After spending nearly an hour talking "Mead Theory" with the instructor, we got down to it. The mead that we were to make was of course honey based, but also had added in bartlett pears that would increase the fermentable sugars available, while also adding a slight flavor to the mead, and a certain bouquet in the final product.
After mixing the FIFTEEN pounds of honey into water to begin disolving it, the pears and more water were boiled to break down the cell walls and release the flavors and also to kill off any potentially competing yeasts or bacterias. We want to control the yeasts that will go into the mix so this is an important step. While we milled and added the pears to the wort (The base of the mead.) we began to heat another pot of water with other additives that will affect the mead formation in different ways. Peppermint tea, gypsum (yes the stone) and black tea amongst them. This was brought to a boil and was then added to the wort as well.
The "additives" like irish moss, gypsum and spearmint tea...
After everything was added to the wort and it had been stirred vigorously to fully dissolve the honey and incorporate all the additives evenly through the mixture as well as to aid in lowering the temperature to verynear to room temperature, we learned how to "pitch the yeast". Pitching the yeast is much like proofing yeast before adding it to a bread recipe. A cup or so of the luke warm wort was placed in a separate bowl and the yeast was added to this. It was gently stirred into the wort and left to sit and bloom. And bloom it did. After 15 minutes the pitched yeast looked like a bowl of porridge.
Adding the pears for sugar and bouquet. (If you're going to learn to make mead, you should of course learn from a man with celtic knots on his arms yes?)
We had to stop there unfortunately because of legal reasons surrounding the manufacturing laws for alchoholic beverage or some odd thing, but the last steps were simply to stir in the yeast to the full bucket of wort, add a fermentation lock and wait...
All in all I would say that it lived up to its reputation for being a very easy brew to make. If you've not had mead, it is typically a golden-hued wine with a honey sweetness and slight dryness, depending on the recipe. It can be very mild on the finish or can have a strong back-end almost like a distilled spirit. Any way you can get it though, it is very tasty. I look forward to making some this year, and with any luck, getting some bees next year to provide me my own honey to make it with!
Best till next time all.