When you think of mead, what comes to mind? My first thought is a townhall filled with Vikings singing in drunken revelry, swigging some unrefined swill from steel goblets. But that picture couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mead, or honey-wine, has been around since ancient greece. It was the drink of poets, scholars and royalty and it is as refined as any other vintage. Brewing mead sounds intimidating, but trust me, it’s a simple process and though there is tons of equipment you can buy to make your mead even that much more outstanding, you can start your first batch with a quick trip to the local grocery store.
• 3 pounds of honey. This is the most important part of your mead, so don’t skimp. You want the freshest pure unprocessed honey you can find.
• 1 gallon of spring water.
• 1 package of brewers yeast. What you want is a high alcohol content wine yeast. Avoid champagne and beer yeast, though it works, it can often make your mead a tad on the vinegar side.
• 1 box of raisins.
• 1 orange or other citrus, peeled and sliced, for flavor.
• Any other herbs you may want to infuse. Nutmeg and cinnamon sticks are good. Rosemary, clove, even a pinch of cayenne. Be creative, but use sparingly. For my fall mead I use three cloves and a quarter stick of cinnamon. A little of these additives will go a long way.
• A container for brewing. A glass carboy, or brewing jug, is good, but even a plastic gallon milk or water jug will work.
• Airtight bottles for bottling. I re-use any beer, wine, or mead bottles with sealable caps.
• An airlock or medium sized balloon.
Step One: Make sure everything is sterilized. Use hot water and a bit of bleach to clean your brewing container and any other tools you may use. Having a clean slate to work with will insure the flavors of your mead are just what you want them to be.
Step Two: Combine the gallon of water with your honey, citrus, yeast, and around an 1/8 cup of raisins. ( Raisins?! I know, it sounds arbitrary, but the raisins add tannin, an important part of wine that comes normally from the grapes you would use, but since the sugar in mead is from the honey the raisins are a necessary ingredient).
Step Three: Mix thoroughly. All ingredients must be incorporated, so mix for a solid five minutes.
Step Four: Cap your jug with an airlock. An airlock is a device that allows gas from the fermenting yeast to escape without any unwanted contamination. Airlocks can be purchased from most any brewing supply store or online, but a balloon with a pin prick in it attached securely to the top of your jug will perform the same function.
Step Five: Wait. You want the initial fermentation to last at least three weeks.
Step Six: Rack your wine and bottle it. Racking wine is the process of filtering all of the raisins, citrus and little pieces of stuff out, so you have a nice clear tasting mead. The best way to rack wine is to siphon it from your initial brewing container into bottles leaving all the sediment at the bottom, but simply pouring it through a thin mesh colander or coffee filter, or even pantyhose works as well.
Step Seven: Label your new vintage with My Own Labels’ wine label selection and store in a cool dark place for six months to a year. I like to create a new name for every batch I make. Not only is it fun, but it helps keep timelines in order when you make multiple batches.
Step Eight: Enjoy! Best served chilled, your honey-wine will be a delightful addition to any dinner party in the fall or garden party in the spring. And brewing a batch ahead of time for a milestone event like an anniversary, birthday, or even holiday makes a truly thoughtful and delicious gift!