Mead is wine fermented from honey rather than the traditional way of fermenting with grapes. Nobody really knows for sure how old the art of making mead is. This information has been lost to history. But it may very well be the oldest form of brewing known to man. And it is an art that is not part of the main stream of brewing. Here are some tips and secrets revealed.
It is theorized that the mead was discovered under a tree and it makes a lot of sense. The theory goes that a beehive either overflowed or was damaged and the honey dripped down into a pool of water. To turn this into a fermented beverage all we need to add to this honey and water mix is some yeast. In an open environment a natural yeast will grow in the honey water and this is enough for it to ferment.
And this concept of natural yeast growth was followed for many centuries. An early book on Mead making written by Sir Digby in the 17th century explains just this process of adding a few basic materials to a honey water mix then covering it and letting it sit.
This process was a bit of a risk because you couldn't be sure that the right yeast would grow in your mead. You were subject to the whims of the local environment. But today there is a whole host of packaged yeasts you can put in your mead to get a great batch of the sweet honey wine.
The Simplicity of Mead Making
Mead making, while a secret, is actually very easy to make. You simply add about three pounds of honey to one gallon of water. You then add about 5 grams of yeast and you are done! The hard part is in the waiting. This will take a minimum of three to four months before it becomes drinkable and another three or so months before it becomes delicious.
Making sure you do it right
While the process is basically very simple there are some things you need to do to insure things go well. I talked a little bit about yeast and unwanted yeast and this unwanted yeast is the most important factor in determining if your mead will come out good. You absolutely have to sterilize all the equipment and containers you will be using for your mead making; and this includes any spoons or tools. This is to make sure no unwanted yeast or bacteria take hold and grow in your honey water. You want only your chosen yeast to grow and nothing else.
Also, a very important yet inexpensive thing you need to do with your fermenting mead is to add an airlock. This is a little plastic device that will allow gases to escape out of the ferment while preventing anything from getting in. Your fermenting mead will cause a large amount of gases and you want these gases to escape easily from your jug or bottle. If this gas isn't allowed to escape it could cause the jug to rupture or the cap to blow off with force.
The Weakness of Honey as a nutrient
Honey is actually rather poor in the nutrients yeast need to make mead. And it can cause a rapid growth in the yeast that only lasts a short period of time. The yeast then dies out and your fermenting process can slow or even stop. This lack of nutrient can be corrected by adding raisins, orange peels, tea leaves, or commercially available wine nutrients and energizers (Which cost only two to three dollars).
The Real Beauty of Mead
Using these guidelines I have here gives you plain and traditional mead. This is terrific but the real beauty of Mead is in its ability to be a blank canvas for an extraordinary wide range of flavors and tastes. Mead is perfect for adding things like raspberries, oranges, cinnamon, pears, plums, peaches, or just about any type of fruit or spice. And this is where it really gets exciting and it is also where the big secret lies. To get good at mead making you have to experiment with fruits and spices. You have to try different quantities and let them ferment for different periods of time.
One of the biggest reasons for the secret of mead making is that it is a very slow process and it can take up to a year or more before you are sure a recipe is good. So it can generally take years before a person gets good at it. But the internet has done a lot to change this and you can now find thousands of recipes online created by all sorts of mead makers.
Mead is a beautiful drink that has been shrouded in secrecy for thousands of years but its time has now come.
The Secret Art of Mead Making Revealed ©(Copyright 2008 Will Kalif) is the title for the authors upcoming book. If you want to learn more about this ancient art and craft visit his site where you can find tutorials, videos and recipes The Joy of Making Mead .
If you like medieval things check out his blog at: Heroic Dreams - Never Give A Sword to A Man Who Can't Dance